"All sorts of entertaining" - Elizabeth Seckman

"Michael and his pals make me wish I lived in Adelaide" - Cherdo

"If I had a daughter, I'd send her to Australia to meet him (and marry him)" - Robyn Alana Engel

"An Australian version of me. Only younger. And Talented. And better looking. Okay, nothing like me." - Al Penwasser

"Whom must I fuck or pay to get a quotation at the top of your blog post?" - Janie Junebug

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Zero

The number of ideas I had for this letter of the A-Z Challenge. Well, I guess that's a lie now...

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Yes Man

Yes Man was a book by British humourist Danny Wallace that was later turned into a Jim Carey film. It was the third in a series of books he wrote that involved putting himself in ridiculous real-life situations to see what he can learn. No word of a lie, the apartment block he lives in is now classed as some sort of unofficial country because of this guy's shenanigans.

In Yes Man, Wallace resolves to say "yes" to literally every offer made to him for six months, including social invitations, advertising pamphlets, even internet spam. He ran himself into the ground, fractured some of his relationships and wracked up an enormous debt on several new credit cards. But he also advanced his career, learned lots of fantastic skills and even met the girl who would become his wife. It's one of the most inspiring books I've ever read and it really, honestly changed my life.

I spent weeks after finishing the book in an attitude of "yes". I saw instant results, becoming more agreeable to my friends and family and having more fun day-to-day. One day, I was walking to work when a couple of Mormons riding past on their bikes stopped to chat. They gave me a speech that essentially used the same sales techniques that I learned in my time as a door-to-door salesman. Asking questions for which there's only one obvious answer ("Do you ever feel stressed or like you're not on top of your life?"), sharing stories to gain rapport ("I used to be in a really dark place...") and providing the solution to a problem they'd just presented ("But that's when I found the Lord"). Looking back with that knowledge, it makes me chuckle.

They got to the end of their pitch and tried to close the sale.
'Is there a time we can organise with you to talk more about it?'
'Yeah, sure!' I replied happily. They scrambled for their little black diary so they could book in a time to meet back up. That day come around, we chatted about God and what it means to be a follower. Then they asked if we could set up another meeting. I said yes. At the second meeting, they asked if I wanted to attend one of their church sessions. Naturally... I said yes.

At this point, my parents started to get worried. They viewed the Latter Day saints as an evil organisation who were attempting to corrupt a teenager who didn't know any better. I just saw it as an exciting new way of discovering a God that I'd always believed in, but never actively sought out. I attended the church, where it was "testimonial day" - a tradition held on the first Sunday of each month where the whole session is set aside to let people approach the stage and share their testimony of the Lord and why they know him to be the one true God. I hadn't yet been filled with the holy spirit, but I was certainly bursting with the spirit of Yes. I decided to get up on stage myself and talk for a minute about my own experience finding God. The reception I got was amazing. The second church finished, an old man dove onto the seat next to me and started sharing his personal story of finding God. As he talked, a whole line formed in front of me full of people wanting to shake my hand and welcome me into the fold. I went to the church for the next three weeks, until my parents refused to drive me there any more (this was before I had my license). After that I kept up my meetings with the two Mormons who had first stopped me in the street. Then at one such meeting, they decided to drop this one on me -

'We want to bring up alcohol,' they said. 'You drink it right?'
'Oh, only occasionally,' I replied. It was kind of true. I did only drink occasionally, but I'd never learned how to drink properly. So I would make Jack-and-Coke mixers that barely had any Coke or when we played a drinking game, I'd take swigs straight out of the bottle of whiskey. I'd never know when I'd had enough, so half the time I'd end up throwing up or passing out. I didn't even realise until years later that what I was doing was passing out and not just falling asleep.
'Let me show you a passage in the Bible,' said one of the Mormons, and he showed me a passage that proclaimed the evils of alcohol, tobacco and caffeine. 'We think alcohol is a dangerous thing that stops you from being able to keep in touch with the Lord. You should make a commitment to abstain from it.'

For the first time in a long time, I was hesitant. Give up drinking? I'd just turned 18! I was so excited to be able to buy it legally! I couldn't give it up now, could I? They pointed out that it wouldn't be without reward - Jesus had promised that anyone who abstained from these things would be healthier, fitter and closer to God. I took it on board, but I wasn't convinced. They didn't push the matter, which is one thing I liked about them.

The next week, AC/DC came to Adelaide. Half the city turned up to see them, and the atmosphere was electric. I was standing in the enormous mosh pit and decided to get a beer. Half an hour later, I'd withstood the massive line, parted with $8 and was standing there with my shitty beer feeling an unusual sense of guilt. Why had I parted with $8 for this? I was still working at KFC for a pittance. I couldn't afford to spend that kind of money for a beer. I got nothing out of it except for the fulfillment of a social requirement. In the end, I was amazed at how easily the decision came - "Yeah, I might give up drinking," I thought. And just like that, I never touched another drop. My friends didn't take to it too well. They kept pressuring me to have a drink and one time even tricked me into it. But just like when I first took on my "Yes" attitude, I was buoyed by the appearance of immediate results. My bank account ticked upwards, I did feel healthier, I realised how much I hated the feeling of being drunk and I also realised how awful people become when they are. I had effectively said Yes to saying No. Those poisonous people eventually gave up on me and we drifted apart. Now I have friends who I appreciate even more because I know what it's like when your friends don't have your best interests at heart. I don't associate with the Mormons any more, but my short time with them was the first step I took towards gaining an understanding of who or what God is. I'm wiser, healthier, happier than I had ever thought possible and I'm still getting better. All because I'd decided to embrace the mantra of YES.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

X

Part X of the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge

I was in first grade at school. We were learning about the alphabet by... I don't know, just coming up with a word for each letter? Something like that. Anyway, this was the time when Xena: Warrior Princess was on TV and I loved the show. Having not seen it and forgotten all about it since then, I'm not sure if that's an embarrassing thing to admit. The name Xena was the word I wrote down for X.

My teacher came along to check out my work. She was a dear older lady with a thin frail body and a Northern British accent. She scanned the list, and hesitated towards the bottom.
'What's this word here?' she asked, pointing out the X.
'Xena. It's a show on TV.'
'Ah, well Xena starts with a Z,' she said with a smile.
'No it doesn't!' I piped up in my indignant 6-year-old voice. 'It starts with an X!'
'Well it could be pronounced "Ex-ena"', she smiled before handing back the sheet and wandering off to help other kids.
"Yeah, it could," I thought angrily. "But it doesn't."
It was the first time I'd ever realised an adult could be not only wrong, but ignorantly so.

Here's a perfect example that I wish were false, but I'm glad I now have the story to tell. One of my mum's employees was complaining about an incident that occurred between her daughter and her teacher at school. The teacher had asked the class where milk comes from. One student put up their hand and said "From the shop." The teacher congratulated her and moved on. This employee and her daughter lived on a farm, so the daughter had a problem with that. She put up her hand and said "Um, excuse me, milk actually comes from a cow." The teacher told her she was wrong.

WHAT?

Okay, let's be as objective as possible here. Maybe the milk wasn't the important part of the equation. Maybe the teacher just picked a random grocery to illustrate their lesson about the supermarket. Maybe the milk could have been substituted for bread, eggs - heck, even Snickers bars. That's more likely (and MUCH less scary) to assume than when the alternative is that the person entrusted with raising the future doesn't even know that cows make milk. So if that is the case... WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU TELL THE KID SHE'S WRONG?

So yeah, it's a very important lesson to learn - the people who were here before you don't necessarily know better.

Monday, 27 April 2015

We Are Gathered...

 Part W of the A-Z Challenge

I wrote this in January after a friend of mine died in tragic circumstances.

Man, this is is a nice turnout. There are people lining up out the door. Surely this proves that I was loved. I could never be truly sure when I was alive. Although some of these people I don't even recognize. Who's that old lady talking to Mum? Must be some distant relative. She's not here because she loved me, she's here out of obligation. Just stay home, lady.

A man in a suit walks up to the lectern.
'Ladies and gentleman, we are gathered here today to mourn the sudden, tragic passing of Michael George D'Agostino. My name is Alfred and I run this funeral home. In sending Michael off to the next life, we must not dwell on the sadness of his passing, but in the joy he brought to others in his life. For it's in these memories that Michael's spirit lives on.'

Okay, who invited this guy to talk? What possible comfort could they get from these generic words from a total stranger? I do appreciate the effort, but you clearly didn't know me at all. Look, I can see the sheet you're reading from - it's dated 1998 and it's got blank spaces wherever my name's meant to go! Just let someone else host the service, I did know a lot of people in showbiz after all. Someone from Quiz Meisters could have hosted it. Or someone from the radio station. Someone who's close enough to know me well, but not so close that they'd be too choked up to do it.

Alfred finishes his generic speech.
'We'd like to thank Michael's family for putting together the mural you see before you.' He motions towards my casket where there are a couple of pictures in frames and a cork board covered in photographs.

I've got mixed feelings about the mural. I like the big frame with the picture of Superman in it. I love the Buttercup logo my friends made up. But the photographs? I've always told you I've got way too many to just pick a few. Did you even realize you could get my whole photo collection off my hard drive? You could have just taken the hard drive, plugged it into a computer and put up a slide show of them all. Much easier.

'And now, we'd like to invite Michael's mother Connie up to the stand to talk about the impact Michael made on all of our lives.'

I was wondering who would come up to talk. Everyone gets so choked up when they have to speak at a funeral. I thought all the women closest to me would be too emotional to do it and none of the men would be emotionally open enough.

Mum arrives at the stand.
'When I was figuring out what to write here, I thought back to some of the moments I shared with Michael. I'll never forget the day he was born. We took him home from the hospital, and it was the first time I ever thought to myself "we're a family".'

Oh geez, it's like these guys don't know me at all! When it comes to my death, the one thing I've always been adamant about is that I want people to laugh at my funeral. Tell some funny stories! Play Highway to Hell over the PA! I spent my whole life trying to make people laugh. I know I wasn't always successful, but I gave it a bloody good go! I'm not worth crying over.

'...Michael... you were the most loving, caring, happiest, strongest person I know. You taught me how to be happy when it should have been the other way ar- God, I'm sorry... Give me a minute.'

Mum... please don't cry. Shit, you're going to make me start crying too. You were doing so well. I know you can finish, you've got it in you. You've done harder things than this. That's what I've always admired about you.

(Through heavy tears) 'When it should have been the other way around. Michael, you were taken from us far too soon. But I know you're up in heaven now, making God laugh just like you did for us down here.'

She collapses back into her seat and Alfred returns. Sarah and Kelsey get up and step out of the room. Sarah's in muffled hysterics and trying to be there for her is clearly causing Kelsey a lot of pain.

Sarah... I'm so sorry.

'And now, a representative of his friends, the um... Buttercup...Gang will say a few words.
Jerida takes the stage. She's been crying too, but she's collected herself for this moment. She places her notes down and takes a deep, calming breath.
'Michael was an amazing person. He had many great qualities, as well as many frustrating ones.

Huh?

'We all know he was competitive, but I experienced it first-hand. I still have the mark from when he tried to race a little girl around the playground. He was trying so hard to win, he forgot I was there and stomped on my foot.'
(The gathered crowd laughs)
'He was stubborn, too. I mean, is it really that hard to wear a button-up shirt to a formal event?'
(The crowd laughs again)
'I mean, I know how you feel. I would sometimes rather wear my track pants to work. But that's just life.'
(More laughter)
'But Michael had the most amazing ability to recognize his flaws and work on them. He was always trying to make himself a better person, and in the short time I knew him, I saw him grow so much. I can't imagine what he would have achieved if he'd been able to live the rest of his life. Michael loved his friends and family and was always there for them. One time when we were dating, he agreed to come to Cobar New South Wales with me for my Grandad's funeral. He had to fly in on his own because of work, so I booked his tickets and me and my family left a few days before him. The night before the funeral, I got a call from him, asking when I'd booked the flight for. I said "8pm" and he said "That's great, because the booking info here says 8am."'
'I was like "Oh my God, I'm so sorry!" and he said "Well, I'm off to go and pack..."'
'He arrived in Broken Hill the next morning and had to figure out how to spend the day there before catching an overnight bus to Cobar. When he arrived the next morning, I handed him his clothes and he changed into them and headed straight to the funeral. The whole time, he didn't complain once. He was just happy to be able to be there for me in a time of need. I think that's what we're going to miss most about him. Thank you.'

And that, Jerida... That's why I've always loved you in some way or other. You found a way to make people smile like I wanted without going over the top and offending my family like I would have if I were in charge. Look, even Christina's stopped crying at the front here and is giggling to herself. Jerida, we weren't partners for very long, nor should we have been. But I certainly consider you my soulmate.

Alfred wraps up proceedings and six people come to carry out the casket - Dad, my uncle, Dimi, Kelsey, Mitchell and Christina. Everyone heads to the cemetery where they say their final goodbye. The tears are back. People throw things into the grave, things that either symbolize the relationship they had with me or things that sum up my personality. Half of the items are related to Superman. I chuckle to myself.

I must have talked about Superman way too much. They think it's all I care about. But that's okay. What I've seen here today has shown me that everything I made of myself in life was worth it. I recovered from a very poor start and managed to build something that I'm very proud to see today. I learned how to really love and to allow others to love me. And I'll watch over them as they go forth, change the world and enrich people's lives. But not right now, God's waiting for me to tell him that story about the time I cracked my jaw on a trampoline. Wait 'til these guys see what God is, they were all way, way off...

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Fear of Failure Week 12: Walk

Admission time - Ever since that opportunity with the Adelaide Bite fell through, I've been stuck for ideas on exactly what to do next. And since I've been down on ideas, I've also been down on motivation. My main job (handing out food samples) has been VERY slow lately. I've only had three shifts there since mid-March. I've been mainly relying on the small income I make from Quiz Meisters to get by.

I've been trying to keep (and more importantly, feel) as busy as possible, but most of my days have been spent sitting behind a computer screen. Part of the reason I'm in this mess is because I absolutely refuse to get a desk job - I'd go crazy. As it was, all that inactivity was starting to give me a touch of the sads, and between the thoughts of low self-worth, I wondered if I was any better off now than in a cubicle, trying to get that report done for Mr Johnson by close-of-business. In those situations, it's kind of a snowball effect - lose morale, take less action, get less results, lose more morale. On Wednesday, feeling depressed and unable to sit still, I decided that maybe going for a walk would help me refresh myself.

It was sunnier than I'd realised outside. I went back in and removed my heavy jacket, which had only been necessary in the cold, tiled rooms of my house. I grabbed a pair of sunnies and my headphones and headed out for a bike track that passes within a few hundred meters of my house. I set a leisurely pace along the track, surrounded by trees, grass, a playground and a stream running alongside me. I was listening to a podcast, but I'm not sure how much of it I'd really heard. For some reason my thoughts had turned to footy umpiring.

Last year I achieved something I'd been wanting to do for a VERY long time, in umpiring junior games of aussie rules football. I'd taken to it very well - I'd gotten to umpire an Auskick game at half time of an AFL match, I'd won runner-up in their umpire-of-the-year award and they'd asked me to take up a leadership role when I came back this year. Both training and the actual games had become my two favourite times of the week. But during the off-season, I was offered a regular hosting spot for Quiz Meisters on Thursday nights. I'd have to make a choice between the two once the footy season restarted and after a long debate, considering all sorts of factors, I'd chosen Quiz Meisters. I'd gotten on the phone regularly with my coach, who said he'd try and work something out. I was more available than ever to umpire the actual games, it was just training I couldn't get to. But the coach is a busy man, and he's got a lot of other stuff to deal with. I never heard back from him with any results. I'd tried calling the club co-ordinator to get his opinion, I'd even tried asking fellow umpires to ask around and try and find a club which trained on other nights. All of them were well-meaning, but none of them ever got back to me. Training has now started all over the state and I'm being left behind.

On a more cheerful note, I was starting to feel happier and fresher after just ten minutes of walking. The thought suddenly struck me that there were other people I could call. I took out my phone, Googled "SANFL umpiring" and within seconds (a new record - for some reason finding phone numbers in that organisation is hard), I had the number for Leigh, the man who organises all umpiring in South Australia. I gave him a call without hesitating.

'Hello, Leigh speaking?'
'Hi, my name's Michael. I was just wondering if there are any panels that train on Tuesday or Wednesday nights.' I surprised myself immediately with how confident I sounded. I hadn't felt that way in a few days.
'Let me just look that up, where do you live Michael?'
'Klemzig,' and by way of explanation, I went on. 'I actually umpired for the North-East Metro panel last year, but I have to work on Thursdays this year so that's no longer an option.'
'Okay, let me just take down your number and I'll do a quick search and call you back.'

Unlike all the other people who'd said that to me so far, I fully believed him. Sure enough, less than five minutes later, he did.
'Hi it's Leigh again. So I've done a quick search, and it looks like the only panel that trains on Wednesdays is the Glenelg/West Adelaide/Eagles panel. That's up in Somerton Park though, so it's a fair drive...'
'Look, I don't mind that at all. I'm just keen to get back into it.'
'That's fair enough, so I'll pass your phone number and email address off to James, who's the coach of the club and he'll be in touch with you shortly.'
'Thanks Leigh!'
'That's alright, have a nice day.'

I'd been worrying about this umpiring problem all Summer and now it looked like it had been fixed in less than ten minutes. I continued my walk, exploring new paths and playgrounds I came across with child-like excitement. Then very shortly after, I got another call.
'Hi Michael, this is James from the West Adelaide umpiring panel, how are you?'
'I'm good thanks mate!' I replied chirpily.
'That's good, I'm just calling because Leigh gave me your details. You'd like to join our panel?'
'That's right.'
'It says here you live in Klemzig, that's an awfully long way away. I don't think we have any games that are close to you.'
Sigh.
'That's not a problem, I travel very long distances for work, I'm used to it.'
That was true. I've had to travel to the very outskirts of the city and deep into the Adelaide Hills to work those food sampling shifts. I drive 37km to Mt Barker for my quiz and I even once had to drive to Nuriootpa for a shift. Look it up.

He asked me a few more questions and then invited me to come to training that night. I already had a commitment for that night and while I considered pulling out of it, I didn't think that would be good practice. So we booked it in for next week. And with that it was officially done. Not only will I have a reason to get up and be intensely active twice a week, I'll also get a little bit of income from it. Sure it's not much, but it's a quarter of what I'm currently making in the rest of the week and it's for only an hour's work. If that's not enough, I came home to an email from my acting agents. They were looking for people who could take up regular work. What was the job? Commentating for junior football games.

What an amazing turn of events. It was reliable weekly work, 7-8 hours every Sunday at $25/hour. According to the brief, it required someone with a strong knowledge of AFL and a "performing flair" to make the junior footballers in their league "feel like rock stars". It wasn't quite like the game-day hosting job that I tried to get at The Bite, but it was similar enough to make it feel like an amazing coincidence. To get the job, we had to find an AFL video on YouTube and make a recording of ourselves commentating over it.

The email said that applications had to be in by the end of the weekend so that they could hand them in on Monday. Full of that confidence and drive that I'd thought I lost, I sent an email back, saying "Keep the spot warm for me - this one's mine."

I went into the radio station on Thursday so that I could use their super-expensive microphones. I figured that would already give me an advantage over others who were just using their phones. I found a three-minute clip which was the end of a very exciting game from two weeks ago.


It took me quite a few goes to get it how I wanted it, I kept running out of stuff to say while they were showing the replays of that first goal. But eventually I got it, and when I showed it to the admin girl to see what she thought, she was very impressed. I saved it and sent it in an email to my agents along with a link to the video and a few examples of previous experience (junior umpiring, kids theater and other performance experience). That's where I was expecting the story to end until next week. But the very next morning as I was making breakfast, my agent Nick called.
'Hi Michael, the client was very impressed with your audition and would like to contact you. Do you mind if I pass on your details?'
'Go for it!' I replied excitedly. 'That was quick!'
'He was very impressed,' Nick repeated with a smirk.

The client (John) and I organised to get in contact over Skype, so he could explain the business. It's called Watch Our Game and it started in Melbourne just a year ago. Football clubs invite them to their games, where they film them and provide a commentary. Then parents can buy a copy of the video as a keepsake or coaches can buy one as a tool for analysing games. Two dollars from every sale gets donated back to the club, so there's a financial incentive for them to have us along. Since they're only just starting to expand out of Melbourne, the work initially won't be every week. But since I'm their first commentator for South Australia, it means I'll be in charge of the whole operation here. Very exciting and nerve-wracking.

All this happened simply because I went for a walk. This is hard evidence of what people have been saying for a long time - that active people are happy people. Next time you're low on confidence, getting restless or just have a touch of the sads, get out of the house. Go for a walk, ride a bike, go to a public basketball court and shoot some hoops with a friend. It worked wonders for me.


Saturday, 25 April 2015

Visitor

As I was driving home from work one night, I got a call from Mum.
'Hey, when you're just about to arrive home tonight, can you call us to let us know?'
'Sure, why's that?'
'You'll find out when you get here. Just don't open the roller door until we say it's okay.'
'Um, okay...'
I pulled into the driveway and gave Mum a call back.
'Okay, I'm here.'
'Okay just a second, Christina will let you in.'
I waited 30 seconds and then the roller door went up. I parked and walked inside. Mum was sitting on the coffee table holding a small brown-and-white puppy.
'Say hello to Charlie,' said Mum with a grin.
'We got a dog?' I asked incredulously. We used to have two big blue heelers when we were much younger, but then we moved house. My parents didn't want the dogs digging up the new lawn, so they gave the dogs away. Since then, they've refused to have any more pets, either for the cost, the messiness or both. We were even given hermit crabs at one point and had filled a fish bowl with gravel and shells to keep them in, but Dad insisted that to look after them properly we'd need to spend money on a proper tank/heat lamp etc, which he wasn't prepared to do.
'No, he's not ours,' she lamented. 'He just found us. Christina and I were heading out to get a DVD and when we opened the roller door, Charlie here just ran in. He jumped into the passenger seat of the car and made himself comfortable, like he was saying "Hey guys, where are we going?"'
By this stage, Charlie had already jumped out of Mums hands and come to acquaint himself with me. He jumped up and down pawing my leg until I sat down and rubbed his tummy. Around his neck, there was a blue leather collar with two metal tags on it. On one was engraved a registration number. On the other, in italics, was the name Charlie.
'He's so friendly isn't he?' I mused.
'He sure is. Every time someone walks in the door he runs up to greet them. He loves exploring too.'
'Have you called the owners?'
'I got an answering machine. I left a message for them to call back.
'Yeah... I wonder how long we have to wait and how many times we have to call-'
'-before we can keep it?' finished Mum. 'We'd have to ask Dad when he gets home of course, but Christina and I are with you.'
Dad was on a hunting trip and hadn't been home in a few days (being a fan of the show Supernatural, I loved saying that to people). Until he returned, we would all have a lot of fun pretending the dog was ours and hoping the original owners never called back. Unfortunately, we all agreed that since we didn't know if it was house-trained, it would have to sleep outside. The best thing we could put together for him as a bed was a deck chair with blankets on it. As we finished playing with him and went to bed, I led him outside and locked both the screen door and the glass door behind it. As I shut the blinds as well (which we always do), Charlie stood on the other side of the door, staring at me as if to say "But... weren't we having fun?" It broke my heart a little, but I finished closing the blinds and went upstairs to bed.

The next day, well... Charlie was gone. We had no idea how he got out, seeing as to whole yard was enclosed by a fence that was taller than us. Mum's best guess was that he'd managed to fit in through a tiny gap between the fence and the dirt at one spot on the perimeter. Charlie's sense of adventure was too great and we clearly weren't able to give him enough attention. The original owners never did call back, and I suspect Charlie's found a family now who can give him the time and attention he needs.




Verse

Part V of the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge

This is mainly for all the people reading this who live outside of Australia. Today (April 25) is ANZAC day. ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corp. We dedicate the day towards remembering all those who have served, suffered and died in the service of their country. The date itself is significant because it marked the first day of the Battle of Gallipoli, which was by far the most dark and devastating battle in Australia's history.

This year is the hundredth anniversary of that day. And I'm currently filled with endless amounts of patriotism. I woke up at 4:30 to attend the dawn service in the city, standing in front of the enormous South Australian War Memorial with thousands of others who share the same pride. There were closer services I could have gone to - one just 2 kilometers from my house. But I was swept up in the occasion and felt I had to do it properly.



One thing I've always admired about America is that they do patriotism better than anyone else. Their national anthem is so beautiful it sends a chill down my spine, as opposed to ours, which I find boring and archaic. But ANZAC Day is the day where we do patriotism right. Unlike Australia Day, where most people just take the excuse to get drunk or go to the beach (or both), people on ANZAC Day genuinely, respectfully reflect on how lucky they are to be living in this rich, free, loving country.

There's a particular ritual that happens during ANZAC Day celebrations that inspires this sense of pride. First the reciting of the Ode of Remeberance, a poem first published in 1914, as the first Great War was getting close. A member of the armed forces will stand in front of the congregation and recite verse 4 of the poem, a verse that practically every Australian knows by heart.

They shall grow not old, as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning
We will remember them.

The crowd repeats this last line, then a bugler will play The Last Post. The Last Post is a tune that the British Army would play to signal the end of a day or at the end of a battle to assure the wounded that it was safe to find their way home. It's a beautiful tune that gives me that same chill as the American national anthem.


It's particularly that last note that gets me. It leaves a question in the air, as if there's unfinished business. As if it will never be finished. It's a note of melancholy.

The Last Post is followed by a minute's silence, and ended with the speaker reciting the final line, Lest we forget. The bigger the crowd is, the more amazing the feeling is of being a part of it. It's now tradition for there to be an Aussie Rules football match between two of the country's biggest football clubs, Essendon and Collingwood. It's the biggest game of the year outside of the grand final and consistently gets 95-100 thousand spectators at the ground each year. I've never been, but just watching it on TV gives you an electric feeling.


Standing out in the cold at 6:15 this morning was one of the most peaceful experiences I've ever had. Everywhere I looked, the things I saw made me smile. Mothers and fathers were holding their kids, who seemed to have gotten the message that this was a time to be quiet and respectful. One little girl tried to stand up on a platform and slipped. A stranger caught her before she hit the ground and not only was her father grateful, but the little girl also looked as if she understood what she'd just been saved from. Someone dropped something and four people bent down to pick it up. People everywhere were wearing the medals that their parents and grandparents had won during service. And retired veterans hobbled around in their perfectly-kept uniforms, commanding nothing but dignity and respect from those around them. For just one day a year, practically all of Australia achieves that state of perfect harmony that everyone talks about. And the interesting thing is that it was borne out of literally the lowest, darkest moment in Australian history. Exactly 100 years ago today, Australia - a country that was really only 14 years old - suddenly grew up and became an adult. Since then, we've paid our respects to the people who sacrificed their own lives to make ours what it is today. It's why we all know that one verse off by heart...

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,
We will remember them.
Lest we forget.


Friday, 24 April 2015

Under Pressure

Part U in the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge

Have you ever wondered how you'd perform in an emergency situation? Whether you'd spring into action and save the day, becoming a hero and getting a million hits on YouTube... or completely freeze up, standing there with a blank expression, unable to hear the person screaming at you to grab the bandages because the blood is rushing in your ears?

Back when I used to work at KFC, I was once on drive-thru and I saw a fight break out between a couple of teenagers and and oldish man. I didn't see who'd thrown the first punch - if it had been the teenagers, I would have jumped in to defend the man. If it was the man, he should know better and would have to deal with whatever happened. My manager had heard the commotion and was trying to jump out of the window to stop it, but I stood in the way - she hadn't seen the situation unfold and putting herself in harm's way might have made things worse. Eventually she left, jumped out the other window and got into the middle of it anyway, breaking them up and threatening to call the police. Both parties left, and when the manager came back inside, she was laughing and telling everyone how I'd frozen up and didn't know what to do. One of the other managers (who was a real alpha male) asked me what I was doing while the old man was being beaten up. And even the next time I came in, I had staff members asking me what had happened and why I didn't do anything.

The power of groupthink is amazing. All these people made me believe that I really had frozen up in the moment and that thought upset me. Maybe it wasn't that, maybe it was more to do with how everyone thought I'd frozen up. Either way, it affected me in a bad way.

Cut to last year in the lead-up to Christmas. I was doing my current job of handing out food samples in grocery stores. This particular day I was sampling butter but spreading it on baguettes. I'd been asked to buy a particular type of baguette for the demonstration but, not being able to find it, I grabbed the closest thing I could find, which turned out to have a very dry, flaky crust. During the shift, an old woman approached and wondered if she could eat it. She had a few health problems and wanted to make sure but, eventually satisfied, she grabbed a piece and continued shopping. Five minutes later, I got a tap on the shoulder. The old lady was back and her face looked red and puffed-out. It took me a few seconds (which is a few seconds too long) to realise she was choking.

My mind immediately jumped to water. I didn't know the Heimlich manoeuvre, so water would have to do. I looked under my demo table, but realised that I'd stupidly left my water bottle in the car. I ran out from behind the table, trying to figure out which aisle of the store the water was in. But then I saw the door that led to the back area of the store and decided that that was the ticket. By some stroke of luck, the first thing I saw when I burst through the double-doors into the warehouse-like back area was a large stack of water bottles, wrapped up in packs of 24 and piled up higher than my head. I ran over, reached to the layer and tore open the plastic wrapping. I snapped the seal on the bottle and opened the lid as I ran back into the store to find the old lady breathing deeply, a stranger rubbing her back and a disgusting glob of I-don't-even-want-to-know on the ground. Despite the danger being passed, she grabbed the bottle I was holding with gratitude and downed half the bottle in one go. She assured me that she'd pay for the bottle (thinking that I worked there) and left, leaving the horrifying glob behind.

I felt pretty good about myself at that point. Not only had a woman been saved from choking to death, but I'd proven to myself that I can think clearly under pressure. I walked into the back again where a staff member was rearranging some stock.
'Hey mate. I just need to let you know there was a lady choking out on the floor, so I grabbed one of the bottles of water from over there to help her out.' To my surprise, the man burst out laughing.
'That's fine mate, what was she choking on?' My face dropped as I remembered the flaky crust of the bread.
'Um... It must have been... somebody else's samples...'

AFL Shenanigans Round 3: Greatest Challenge Yet

Adam has either lost or tied last all three weeks now. Things are getting desperate for him. If you have any more suggestions for challenges, leave a comment, because we're running out of ideas that would look good for a camera and that we're okay with doing :P


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Twenty-Twelve

Part T of the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge


2012 may not have been the end of the world like some people expected, but for me it was a time when a LOT of stuff changed. That year has been easily the most interesting, testing, growth-filled part of my life so far.

When it started, I had a crazy crush on a girl who already had a boyfriend. I was also coming up on the first anniversary of my foray into stand-up comedy. At the time, I was determined to make stand-up my career. January marks the heats of RAW Comedy, an open-mic stand-up competition where most of the comedians that become successful in Australia get their start. I had entered and was placing a lot of weight on the outcome. I was also very frustrated about this girl situation. I don't really know how to explain the reasons for my actions here, it's probably just best to watch the video...


Looking back, the only thing I regret about it is that sexist joke I made towards the beginning. I put the act up on YouTube where it got well past 900 views before my account got deleted.

In February, my good friend Rusty convinced me start my first blog. I had no idea it would be such a rewarding experience and that I would make such solid friendships with people I would never meet. I described the high points of the old blog in my O post here.

In March, I took part in my first ever Adelaide Fringe Festival. It was two five-minute spots at a pub in the west end of the city. Yet the way I swaggered around, proudly displaying my artist pass on my chest, it's like I thought I was Wil-bloody-Anderson. The two spots were very, very mixed. The first one was one of the worst gigs I've ever done. There were a couple of friends who saw me for the first time that night and I couldn't even look them in the eye afterwards. The second gig went a lot better. I tried out a musical comedy song that's ended up serving me very well over the last few years. Still, looking back on it I was very awkward and I'm glad I've improved since then.

Since I was just working part-time at KFC at the time, I had a fair bit of time to spare. And since my Fringe Festival artist pass could get me into most shows for free, I ended up taking FULL advantage of it. For four weeks I spent as much time as I could seeing every show I could get to and as I saw each show, I circled it off in my festival guide and put a number next to it. By the end of the four weeks, I'd seen 52 shows - a record that as far as I know has only been broken by my friend Josh, who doesn't have a job, but managed to get hold of an artist's pass by agreeing to help out at one of the venues when they needed him. I was wrecked by the end of the festival, but I was sure glad I put in the effort.

Oh also... I guess I kind of found Jesus? It was during the Fringe festival, I was at work getting to know a gentleman there named Chris. He told me he was Christian and I told him I'd been raised Catholic, but no longer went to church (I won't get into the reasons here). He invited me to come to his church and in a moment of spontaneity, I said "yeah absolutely". That weekend I didn't come because I had shows to see. The next weekend, I attended and was struck by three things.
1 - These guys had a much better idea of what it was to believe in God than what I'd grown up around. They did things because they believed in it, not because they were told they should.
2 - There were FAR more people my age than in the Catholic churches I went to. Again, they were there to worship God, not just because they were told to attend by their parents.
3 - The sermon went for THREE HOURS.
Luckily, there was a half-hour break somewhere in the middle. Otherwise I may have gone into rigor mortis from all the sitting still. I left in that break to go and see more shows, although I could tell that the young people I was talking to were shocked at the idea of leaving half-way through a sermon. The week after, I stayed the whole time and hung out with the youths at one of their houses afterwards. And from then on, I was in all the way. I went to church every Sunday morning, hung out with the group every Sunday night and after a while attended a devotional with the boys during the week. It continued that way until January the next year when I took a new job where I had to work on Sundays. I stopped coming into church and eventually got too busy for the devotionals. I unfortunately lost contact with them after that.


One more thing happened in March that played a huge role in me development - the breakdown of my parents' marriage. For maybe a month, I sat there as they passionately described all the reasons why their partner was an awful person and one they shouldn't have to deal with any more. It led to a very public cry for help in April that I describe in more detail in this post here.

On a happier note, in July Rusty recorded a podcast for Jax (described here), and we decided that we wanted to make it a regular thing. We recorded another three episodes, realised we weren't that interesting on our own and invited two more comedians to join us. We created 10 episodes of a show that I was really very proud of. It was hilarious and had its own identity which is pretty hard for a comedy talk show podcast to do. It also came at the right moment. If you ever listened to the Walking the Room podcast, I heard someone explain the the reason that show became so popular so quickly is because the two hosts had hit rock bottom with their careers and their lives and were in a broken vulnerable state. People related to it and joined in as they tried to climb out of the depths. We had a similar version of that. We were all very new to stand-up (I had the most experience at a year and a half) and all wanted to make it a career. I was still dealing with the effects of some of the things that happened in March, as well as a new development of having gotten a job as a door-to door salesman. It was the only period I'd ever had after leaving high school where I dreaded getting out of bed in the morning and hated the person I thought I was. Rusty also hated his job, but unlike me, he was quite good at it. Nevertheless, he was desperate for any creative outlet he could find (he's an engineer, not much room for creativity when there's millions of dollars at stake). The third person, Bridie, was unemployed, going through university and dealing with Cystic Fibrosis and the fourth person was that friend Josh. He wasn't in as weird a place as the rest of us, but he's always a very interesting person to talk to so it didn't matter.

That was the actual name of the podcast :P

Despite my love for the thing we were building, the others weren't so confident in it. After 10 episodes were recorded, one of them gave up on it and requested that the episodes we'd uploaded be taken down. The rest of us didn't have the heart to try again.

The next few things kind of link in together. Like I've mentioned, I'd gotten a job in door-to-door sales around August. I was selling electricity and was surprised to find I was only one of about two people in the months I worked there who remained past their first day. I've got a strange phobia of giving up on things, so every day for I think two months, I got up, got yelled at by people, got doors slammed in my face and made no money. To get to each suburb, I had to pile into a run-down van with the rest of the team which was full of empty cans and pieces of paper. They blasted Skrillex at full volume and smoked cigarettes, which made me choke. The whole time, my bank account slowly dwindled down, but my cocky bastard levels went up.

In late September, I started a course at the Australian Radio School, hoping to develop another avenue into showbiz. I'm still working in radio now, but only on a volunteer basis - I'm yet to get anything paid.

Also in September, the core friendship group I was slowly developing (see The Buttercup Gang) ballooned out to seven people with the addition of Juan, Jerida and Jasmine. I figured out pretty quickly that Sarah had brought Jerida in on the group with secret plans to set her up with me. Even though that girl from January had long left my mind and I currently had no one in mind to replace her, I was still very much against the idea of being set up. I didn't say anything about it, just welcomed her into the group like everyone else. Although I should have realised at the time how quickly we became friends on Facebook...

In October, a new door-to-door sales company called me up and asked if I'd like to come in for an interview. The fact that I was already doing sales for someone else was a complete coincidence - they were just looking for resumes online and mine was one of the ones they found. I was taken by the place immediately. The office was clean and white, there were secretaries there and the staff were clean-cut and professional. I never thought I'd be impressed by people who wear suits (and haven't since), but after working with the degenerates I currently did, they seemed like a Godsend. One other thing that I liked was that they didn't sell electricity, they sold charity - one of those things where you sign up to donate a certain amount each month. Anyway, they like me and offered me the job, so I quit the old place and began anew.

Two weeks into that new job, we all went on a work trip to Perth. The trip was meant to be two weeks, but I didn't want to miss out on my radio course and Jerida had asked us to watch her in the semi-final of a music competition, so I opted to stay in Adelaide for the first week and join the rest of my colleagues in the second week. They sent me out to work on my own during that first week, and I ended up just finding a place down, phone Jerida and chat with her for emotional support. I rejoined my colleagues in Perth in that second week, and I thought I'd make use of my time there by organising a couple of stand-up gigs. I'd just come off both the best and the worst sets I'd ever done, and I was unsure of my abilities. I knew I was completely out of favour with the head promoter in Adelaide and I needed to figure out how to be more consistent. Anyway, the two gigs I did in Perth sucked like you wouldn't believe. The first set didn't get a single laugh the whole time and in the second, the only laughs I got were once when I mentioned how poorly I was doing and once when the host got back on stage after and said "Who the fuck still wears a Meatloaf shirt?"


Well of course, Jerida had become my go-to person for emotional support by that stage, so we ended up chatting from different time zones to keep my mind off of how sad I was. It was after one such conversation that lasted six hours and kept her up until two in the morning Adelaide time, that I finally realised how I really felt about her. I asked her out the next day and she became my first girlfriend.

I was fired from the door-to-door job the day after we arrived back in Adelaide. Apparently I was the only person who spent more money going to Perth than we he actually made during the trip. Suddenly I was unemployed and struggling for a solid income, as I had been since the middle of the year. So what did I do? I went on holiday to the Gold Coast! Gang member Kelsey had originally come to me with the idea a few months ago and in December it became a reality. Everyone who was in the group at the time came except for Jasmine. It was close to the most memorable week of my life and it was the point where our group of friends really became a "gang". It was also in the Gold Coast that I first saw our podcast on iTunes, which made me really happy.


Getting and losing my job, failing at stand-up and getting a girlfriend all signaled another turning point for me. I no longer had the time to work on my blog. I had lost all confidence in stand-up and stopped turning up to shows. The poker nights at the pub that I'd been doing twice a week stopped too so I could spend the time with my girlfriend. In January, I was contacted by a promotions company and offered a job, which stopped me from going to church as well. But it was the definitive moment where that turbulent period ended. I still work for that company and a few others too - ones that I'm passionate about and make me happy. I'm much better off for it now.

Just Quickly...

In my Responses post from a couple of days ago, I forgot to post a link to the blog of Susan Barclay.

Her blog is called Notes from Innisfree. If you've got time, Susan is friendly and inspiring woman. Definitely worth a visit.


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Sarah

Part S in the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge


Sarah's the fourth member of the oft-mentioned Buttercup Gang, the group of friends to which I partly owe my love of life. Sarah is a girl with two sides, and I don't know which one shines brighter.

On one hand, Sarah has an unending well of love and care for the people in her life. I know very few people who genuinely want to know about what's going on in your life - the ups and downs, desires and goals, fears and concerns - as much as her. The reason I started blogging again (I had an old blog which I gave up on) was that she complained that I wasn't doing it any more and that she liked reading my honest, candid stories. She made me promise to start another one within the next six months and now whenever I think I'm too busy to write or that I've got nothing interesting to write about, the fear of letting her down keeps me going.


She has this amazing skill that she brings out whenever you see her where she asks you how you're going, you say "I'm good thanks" and in a suspicious way, she says "Are you sure?" Suddenly you think there's something written on your face that says there's something wrong and you start to fill in the blanks. Next thing you know, you're telling her about this problem you've been having at work and by the time you leave you feel a little lighter, like you've gotten some things off your chest that you didn't even know were there.


I don't know if this is just me or if everyone feels this way when they talk to her, but I feel like she understands me. I'm not as articulate in my speech as I am on a keyboard, so I often struggle to express my ideas exactly as I mean them. With Sarah, it's not a problem. I'll be trying to explain something and she'll nod and summarize it in the exact right words and I'll point enthusiastically and say "Yes! Exactly!"


Her friends and family mean the world to her and vice versa. She'd give up the world for them if the cause was great enough. But then she has this other side, one that she brings out whenever she needs to. It doesn't take long to work out that Sarah can be quite a badass.

If you're being unfair, evasive or just generally idiotic, she'll call you on it. Never in a mean way, just simply by pointing out that she knows you know the right answer or that you're avoiding an issue. She knows and is comfortable with herself  - she won't take crap from anyone who contradicts that.


She's also incredibly driven. She knows exactly where she wants to go with her career and is going after it harder than anyone else I know (including me). And they're very hefty goals too - she won't rest until she's working at the United Nations or the International Criminal Court. To achieve this, not only is she studying law and volunteering for all sorts of organisations that will get her valuable experience (and help out the community), but she's also finding time to work two jobs and save up the money to go on study programs overseas. She goes after this goal not only to show herself how much of a force of nature she is, but also because she wants to inspire other women to seek education and power, especially in underprivileged countries. I fully expect to one day go through her Facebook page, smiling at all the pictures of her with Presidents of foreign countries. Then that smile will turn to a laugh as I click the next photo and find her standing next to her girl-crush Taylor Swift, a look of unbridled excitement on her face.




It's sad to think that our humble city of Adelaide is too small for Sarah and her dreams. But the world needs her more than we do. World, please be kind to her... Or she'll make you pay.

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Responses!

Part R in the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge


Last month I asked my readers to think of questions to ask me. Here's what they came up with...

Jacquelineand.... from Cheapskate Blethering: What makes you angry Michael? What makes you angry enough that you can't *not* do or say something?
There are a few answers to this, but the biggest and must prevalent would have to be when people claim moral highground. It's all well and good to support gender equality and gay rights etc, but if any of those people attacks others who don't agree with them, then that makes them just as bad. I recently had a conversation with a friend who was drunk and had tears in his eyes. In a hurt, puppy-dog voice, he described a conversation he'd had with another friend of his. He described how he'd read the police report for the Ferguson Shooting and he thought the cop might be innocent. He'd apparently told this other friend and the friend said he was being a racist and now won't talk to him. It was really upsetting. Another time, I saw something from a friend on Facebook who was brave enough to say that people should do plenty of research before vaccinating their kids. The amount of vitriol she endured from who so-called "friends" was horrifying. They were telling her not to ever become a mother and to stay away from their kids. I'll probably vaccinate my own kids, but if anyone else has done the research and decides it's too dangerous, what right would I have to refute that? Personally, I've chosen to keep believing in God while everyone else my age rejects religion altogether. I have to be careful who I reveal that information to, lest people draw conclusions that I hate gay people or that I'm not too bright. It's very frustrating.

John Gray at Going Gently: Your biggest regret when it came to love?
I literally have no regrets. I've certainly made mistakes (a shitload of them), but none that I dearly wish I could take back. All the dumb things I've done have made me a better person now than if I'd never done them.

Okay, there is one thing... On my second Valentine's Day with my first girlfriend, I suggested we give each other gifts that don't cost any money. My brilliant idea was to give her an old hard drive I didn't need any more and I filled it with thousands upon thousands of music tracks that may or may not have been illegally obtained. She had an issue with torrented music and refused to partake in it. Later I found out that the hard drive had also stopped working. It's by FAR the worst gift I've ever gotten somebody and if I could take that mistake back, I would. But nothing else.

Alex J. Cavanaugh at Alex J. Cavanaugh: You jumped out of a plane - what's the next wild thing you want to do?
That's a tough one. The short answer is EVERYTHING. But I guess if I had to pick one thing,I've always considered skydiving to be a package deal with bungee jumping. I actually have a typed-up bucket list on my computer and those are the first two items on it.

Debra at She Who Seeks: What's your favourite movie and who's your favourite movie star?
It's a polarising choice, but for me it has to be Man of Steel. I've spoken before about how much Superman means to me and someone once pointed out to me that Superman's a character that's manage to update itself for 70 years based on what's been going on in the world at that time. Man of Steel brought Superman into a post-9/11 world where we're all too jaded to really believe in an icon of perfection. It highlighted some of his weaknesses - in particular, that he cares too much. Look out in the sequels for the consequences of the first movie to affect him deeply in the second. He'll become so protective of human life that others can start to take advantage of it.

As for my favourite actor, it's a dead heat between Bryan Cranston and James Spader. I'm endlessly impressed with how competently Cranston went from hapless father Hal in Malcom in the Middle to badass druglord Walter in Breaking Bad. And Spader has played two of my favourite ever characters on TV - Alan Shore from Boston Legal (my all-time favourite character) and Red Reddington on The Blacklist.

Cherdo at Cherdo on the Flipside: When Men at Work said "You'd better run, you'd better take cover", what the heck were you running from? Do you really eat Vegemite? Why? How? From this side of the globe, Australia seems to have a ridiculous number of scary, crazy critters. Is it really like that, day to day?
Well, I imagine Men at work were telling us to run from all that thunder and men chundering (puking).

I very rarely eat eat Vegemite, but there are a lot of people who seem to love it. I'm convinced it's some sort of practical joke we play on other countries - we tell everyone how awesome it is and then watch their faces as they try it and squirm. Apparently, if you just spread the bare minimum amount, it doesn't taste like you're being beaten to death with salt.

My gut feeling is that bushland in America is filled with just as many snakes and spiders as bushland in Australia. We get the impression of having more because something like 90% of the area of Australia is bushland. The majority of our population is crammed into a number of cities around the coast and in those cities, there's nary a croc or a 'roo to be found. To put it in perspective, my Mum and sister still freak out when they see a spider in the house and my Dad or I have to stop whatever we're doing and come and kill it.

Patt Hatt at It's Rhyme Time: How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood? Ever hop along with a kangaroo? Think you could get around the world in 80 days without a plane?
It depends on the size and the motivation of the woodchuck. Why is it chucking the wood in the first place?

I haven't hopped along with a kangaroo, but I have shot at one from a 4WD at midnight? Is that close enough? ...Hello?

Three words - hot air balloon.

Bryan & Brandon at A Beer for the Shower: What makes you tick? In other words, what can't you live without? If you could sit down and talk to your 6 year old self, do you think he'd be happy with how you turned out? And would you give him any advice on the future, or would you let him figure it out on his own?
I'm driven by a powerful, unquenchable desire to live life to the fullest. I'm not at all sure when it happened, but at some point I started to picture how I'd be on my deathbed. Death seems like such a final and absolute thing that if I ever got there and had regrets on how I'd lived, then that would be incredibly sad. So I work very hard at not letting that happen. What can't I live without? I see that as a very different question and I'm ashamed to say that the answer is probably my phone :P

That next question is very interesting, because when I was 6 years old, life was still very peachy. I was very outgoing, everyone thought I was adorable and I was pretty smart for my age. Things didn't start going wrong for me until I was 9. However, while my time between the ages of 9 and 19 were pretty painful, I still wouldn't try to stop it from happening. Like I mentioned before, I'm a better person now than if that stuff had never happened. The one thing I would try and convince my six-year-old self to do is to be wary of junk food and video games later on. When I was ten years old a doctor told me that I was among the shortest 10% of kids my age in Australia, but among the heaviest 10% as well. That put me firmly in obese range. I'm in really good shape now, but I do wonder what life would be like now if I'd forgone those two things. I imagine I'd be fitter and taller and that being social would have come more naturally to me later on.

Linda Kay at Senior Adventures: If you had plenty of money and a choice of a month to spend in a foreign country, where would you go and what would you plan to see?
Hm... Well it's on my bucket list to travel to every continent. I've already been to Italy and the US (and Australia of course). I think Antarctica would only be a couple of days tops. So that leaves somewhere in Asia, Africa or South America. Of the countries they include, I'm most interested in visiting Japan, China, India, Brazil and South Africa. I'll say... Japan. As for what I'd see, I generally like to have a good mix of touristy stuff and local stuff on my trips, so I'd see all the historical sites, Sumo matches etc, but I'd also just chill out at Japanese restaurants and watch some Japanese game shows on TV.

Elephant's Child at Elephant's Child: What is your biggest (most impossible) dream?
To make a very comfortable living working in jobs that I love and am passionate about. I've been doing it at Quiz Meisters for a while, I occasionally perform those kids' theatre shows and I'm trying to fit in my footy umpiring so I can develop that into a decent income too. Once that's achieved, my biggest dream will be to find the girl of my dreams and start a family with her.

Susan Barclay at Notes from Innisfree: If you were stuck on a desert island, who would you want to be with and why?
Probably Australian comedian Justin Hamilton. He's fascinating (download his podcast), knows how to make things fun without needing technology (Hey our phones are dead and useless, let's see if we can use them to nail those toucans!) and since it's a desert island and we'd have no food to sustain us, we'd probably only last a few days. In that case, I want to be laughing until the end.

Elizabeth Seckman at Elizabeth Seckman, Author: What's the best and worst fashion trend? Show us your style!
Sorry Liz, this is probably the only question I won't be able to satisfactorily answer. I honestly have no eye for fashion whatsoever. I can have an hour-long conversation with someone and then someone else will say "Did you see what he was wearing?" I wouldn't be able to tell them. I just don't pay attention to it.

Personally, I've been wearing the same thing for 20 years - a t-shirt (most likely one that I got at a concert or just a plain white one), sandshoes and either shorts in Summer or jeans and a jacket in Winter. I think I look ridiculous in anything else.

Stephen T. McCarthy at STMcC Presents Battle of the Bands: Where were you when the lights went out? Where do you go to "meet a man about a horse"? What are your general thoughts about Radio Birdman, and your specific thoughts about "Aloha Steve and Danno"?
I had to look these ones up to answer them. First I came up with the Doris Day film "Where Were You When the Lights Went Out?", which took place in 1965. I wasn't even a twinkle in my parents' eyes at that point, seeing as my father was only four years old and my mother hadn't quite been born yet.

Okay, I'll let you in on a secret - I didn't really have to see anyone about a horse. I just wanted to get out of the conversation.

My general thoughts on Radio Birdman - they're really cool! More specific thoughts on Aloha Steve and Danno - I love it! A lot of that trademark punk thrash, love the cutting guitar. Wish I could understand what they were singing though :P

Pickelope Von Pickelope at Strangely Naked: Are you doing this because you couldn't think of another post that starts with "Q"?
Nope ;) I wrote a ridiculously long post for Q (it took me three solid days to write). R on the other hand...

Peaches D. Ledwidge at Day Laughs Night Cries: How do you heal from emotional pain/wounds?
Time and company. For me, that's a foolproof combination and it hasn't failed me yet. I might walk around like the world's on my shoulders for a while, but I make sure to NEVER take it out on anyone else.

Jax at Raviolis and Waterworks: What is your BIGGEST fear and why?
I have two answers for this. The first is that I fear I'll never get a chance to become a dad. I want children a lot, but at the moment I barely make enough money to support myself let alone a child, and I have no idea if I'll ever find the right mother in time. My biggest fear used to be that I wouldn't be a good dad. But I've studied enough cases of good and bad parenting that I feel like I've got a good shot. Plus, there was this moment I had once when I was hanging out with my group of friends and someone asked the question "If you had to pick two people from this group to be your parents, who would you pick?" Most of the group picked me as the dad, which I found very surprising, but also flattering and encouraging.

The other fear... well, it's needles. Seriously, it's a proper phobia. The last time I had to give blood, I whimpered like a little boy.

Theresa Mahoney at Theresa's Mixed Nuts: What's something you absolutely feel you must accomplish before you die? What makes you so happy, so happy you could pee your pants? (just playing off the angry question from before, lol)
Without a doubt it's to own my own property and become self-sufficient. I'm lucky enough to have parents who'll support me while I make my dreams a reality (albeit reluctantly - they'd love it if I just got a 9-5 job like everyone else), and in turn it spurs me on to not just get comfortable living with them and to actually make sure I'm working towards that home-owning goal.

What makes me pants-wettingly happy? Nougat. I love nougat so much.

Jimmy Fungus at JimmyFungus.com: Who was the guy who replaced John Travolta on "Welcome Back Kotter"? Someone told me it was Ted McGinley, but I think they were lying to me.
I think he was lying. According to my research, they never actually replaced Travolta. He just appeared in the occasional episode as a "special guest star". He reportedly got paid $2000 per episode that season.

Dixie at dcrelief: If you threw a party - invited every girl you knew - how many would you ask, and how many of those asked would show up? And would you still be able to say to the ones who didn't show... "Thank you for being a friend'? Would they always be your "Golden Girls"? (Like you're gonna know that sitcom or theme song - right?)
Every girl I know? We might be getting into the triple-digits there :P I doubt many would come, because I'm just not known as the guy who holds parties. You probably know how it is, you generally either hold all the parties yourself or you attend everyone else's parties. I'm the latter. As such, they would of course still be my "Golden Girls" (I know the show. Unfortunately never watched it, so I don't know the theme).

Alissa Apel at Planet of the Apels: Have you ever done anything illegal? What was it? Would you do it again? Or do you regret that you did it now?
Nothing major, mostly downloading music and TV shows or jaywalking. Although there are two moments that I wish I could take back. One happened when I was 17 and still drinking (I quit when I was 18, how weird is that?). My friends of the time and I had stumbled out of the house and gone for a walk through the night. We passed an ATM and some of the boys were getting out money when for some reason I realised "You know what? I've never publicly urinated before!" I proceeded to go against the side of the bank, much to my friends' amusement. Not proud of that.

The other moment came when I was 12 years old and I was hanging out in the school canteen with my friends. One of them mentioned that the walls there were really weak and demonstrated by kicking a hole in one of them. The rest of us wanted to see if we could do it too and by the end of lunch, the whole room was full of holes. The school decided not to press charges, but we were suspended and asked to pay the cost of fixing the damage.

Sarah, my friend from The Buttercup Gang: What is your favourite moment with each individual member of the Buttercup Gang? (especially that Sarah, she's a keeper)
Phew, that's tough. I'm not sure I can remember individual moments, just the presence of you guys in my life is what stands out to me. But I'll give it a go. These are subject to change as more moments come to me.

Kelsey - The time we did the World's Greatest Shave together. We decided to do it fairly late (like a week out) but we still managed to raise over $400.

Mitchell - The 10-minute burger challenge. Not only was it really really fun, but it's the moment I learned that he can be just as competitive as me.

Sarah - The moment I learned the full extent of what you went through growing up. I've never felt so close to you as that moment. We were having the conversation over Facebook, so you couldn't see the tears welling in my eyes as I read it.

Juan - Seeing him at his salsa performance. He's such a good dancer!

Jerida - We worked our way through all five seasons of Boston Legal together. We were both crazy about the show and after every episode it sparked a lot of moral and ethical debate between us, which I enjoyed. It's the only thing I ever introduced her to that she genuinely enjoyed. She got me onto Gilmore Girls, but we never got to the end of the first season because she preferred to watch Boston Legal.

Jasmine - Last Christmas, her and Mitchell were completely adamant that they weren't to get presents. I wasn't hearing any of that, so I made sure to include them on my Christmas list. Mitchell was easy to buy for because I know him so well, but Jasmine I don't know as well. Every attempt I made at finding out what she likes was shot down, so I ended up spending a whole afternoon drawing a picture of her surrounded by images of the three things I know about her - that she's a nurse and that she loves reading and anime. I'm an AWFUL drawer, which gave the picture a juvenile charm. She totally loved it.

Brooke - One time we went to the beach (just her and I) and I think I noticed for the first time how much of a sense of fun she has. We threw/kicked footballs, tumbled down sand dunes and pretended to be superheroes by tying our towels around our necks as capes.

Jason - During the road trip to Pine Point, Jason was teaching us (myself and Jerida) some gospel folk songs he knew (he's a singing teacher and a music major). Eventually, the three of us kind of fell into this groove where Jason and Jerida lay down a beat and I made trumpet noises over the top. It had this great jazz sound and I loved how we were all completely in sync for that moment. That and that video he made for us after the trip ;)

Wendy - There was a time where we met at Burger Theory and it was the first time I'd had any proper interaction with her. I discovered she's really funny and it made me like her more.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Queens and Castles

Part Q in the 2015 A-Z Blogging Challenge

This post went far longer than I thought it would, so only read it if you really want to. Tomorrow I'll be revealing the answers to my Ask Me Anything post from a month ago.

I took part in the Adelaide Improv Festival from March 1-11 this year. Despite having only been part of the improv scene in Adelaide since December, there was still plenty I could get involved in. One of them was Maestro - a competition similar to theatresports except there are no teams, only individuals. They get put into teams for each new scene and the scene gets scored. At the end of each round, the people with the lowest cumulative scores are eliminated until there's only one player left. Our competition had 8 heats and two semi-finals, the winners of which would go on to the national final held amongst all the best improvisers from all the other states.

Being new, I could never get past the first or second round of eliminations. But to my surprise, I was messaged by the organiser to ask if I wanted a spot in the semi-final. There was only meant to be eight people in each semi, but they were happy to include a ninth because apparently I "showed promise". I was pretty proud of myself until I discovered that there were only about five people who didn't get in.

For whatever reason, my game stepped up in the semi. I was happy with every scene I did and I ended up making it to the final four. The other three were incredibly experienced and had their own show at the Fringe this year, so you know they're good. 

Another show I participated in was called Sink or Swim - a show where four teams of two improvise a story in one of the four given genres. Our genres were horror, film noir, Shakespeare and Jane Austin. Each team plays out five minutes of their story and the crowd votes for which story they want to keep seeing. I took part in two of these shows. On the first I did Jane Austen and on the second I did Shakespeare. Jane Austen went so well. In the first scene I played a father and my partner played my daughter. I was a typical man for that period, wanting to marry my daughter off to someone rich and powerful. In the second scene I took off my formal-looking vest and played a poor-but-handsome boy who was in love with the daughter and she him. At the end of that scene, my partner suggested the boy and the father meet and the audience loved that idea. Most of the third scene was spent on stage on my own, having a conversation with myself and taking the vest on and off to indicate which character I was. I wasn't sure if the audience's silents meant they weren't finding it funny or they were just engaged in the story. But when my partner came back on stage, I said I accidentally stepped in it when I said I'd hold a ball and invite all the eligible men in the kingdom to meet her. In my head, I was thinking that we'd get all the eliminated players to perform the parts like we always do for the final scene. But the audience took it to mean "I don't think playing two characters was hard enough, why don't I play forty?" They all burst into laughter and when the other players realised what they were laughing about, they burst out laughing too. The audience kept up in as the final team remaining (and as one performer pointed out later, how could they not?). I really wanted to take up the challenge that I'd accidentally set myself and try and play a whole bunch of characters at once. But the more senior players wouldn't allow it. They all jumped on stage for the final scene and did what we originally planned. But I was still proud of what we'd done.

The second Sink or Swim I did went even more haywire. I started out as a king who was informing his servant that he planned to start a war with the queen of the neighbouring country. Either we had a really good audience that night or we were just all on our game because the audience laughed hard at everything anyone did or said. We just managed to get through to the second round. When it was our turn, I stood on stage, ready to address my servant again, when he jumped on stage, bowed and said "My Queen!" The crowd laughed, so I changed my stance a bit and in a horrible, screechy, high-pitched voice I said "Yeeeeeeeeeees?" From that point on, it turned out that I didn't need to actually say anything funny to get a laugh. I just had to say something in that screechy voice and the audience would lose it. After the round, the audience was having a tough time deciding whether to keep us in or the film noir team. Jane Austen was safe as houses, as it had been in all the other games. One of the guys from film noir - Jarrad, possibly my favourite improviser - came up with a brilliant suggestion.
'If these guys are happy with it, I'd love to merge the two genres.' The host, who was visiting from Canberra and had invented the format, was a little taken aback. But the audience loved the idea so everyone went for it. After the Jane Austen team had their go, my Shakespeare partner and I started a swordfight while the film noir boys spoke dark soliloquies to the side. Then it was time for voting again and once again, Jarrad said "I think we should just merge the lot." We had an amazing, anarchic scene where everyone crammed on stage playing their highly-conflicting characters, ending with one of the boys from the horror team who no one had seen since the first round. As Nick said afterwards, I think improv was the real winner there.

But the show - the one event - that I was looking most forward to was the 12-hour Soapathon. A soap opera that's completely improvised from 1pm-1am. We'd given it a dark fantasy theme (set in the Castle Wagner), making it even more exciting. So think The Bold and the Beautiful meets Game of Thrones. Every Sunday for two months leading up to the event, we got together and practiced creating characters and stories. By the end of it though, we were running out of ideas and we slowly moved further off the dark fantasy theme. So I decided that on game night, I'd pick my favourite character that I'd played throughout all our rehearsals and that would be the character I stuck with. There was an obvious character that came to mind. During one rehearsal I'd played a character who was a rich merchant. It began simply as a way of making sure I was involved in the storyline. In my short character introduction to the rest of the group (called a hot 30), I explained that I was the man who could "get things" for a price. That way, if there was any sort of relic etc that became the focus of people's attention, they would likely come through me to get it. But as the rehearsal went on, I noticed that the character had more to it. He was concerned only with money and power and was willing to trample over anyone to get it. When you're creating a character on the spot, it can be hard to define exactly what the character is. But with two such clear, distinctive driving forces for my character to have, it became easy to fall into the character and lose myself. On the night of the performance, I came dressed in black pants and shoes, a button-up shirt and a vest. I'd looked up the translation for the word for "wealth" in Latin - profectus - and that became my character's name.

The 12-hour show was split into 6 shifts of two hours each. I wasn't in the first shift and I also had a break between 9 & 11pm. I watched the first shift as all the guest performers from interstate built up the beginning of the story. There were many great performers there - Katherine, a short girl who's full of energy and plays emotions really well. Nick, a very, very tall man who often falls into Irish or cockney-English accents while on stage. Sam, a slightly crazy individual. One of those guys that will put on six hats and start reciting poetry for the audience just because he's in the moment. And Rik, an improviser from Canberra who has the most wonderfully incredible talent for being effortlessly funny. I was constantly amazed at how every line he said was a perfect thing that both fit with his character and made the whole room lose it. I often have to pick one or the other - make the crowd laugh or stay in character. It's fairly rare that I'm able to do both.

Those four people and many others got the story going with wizards and artifacts, castles, kings and servants. Then the first shift finished and the interstaters all left to attend another commitment. That left just the local performers. Some of them were still in from the last shift. Others, like me, were just coming in now. In my first scene, I had come into town looking to set up a new enterprise. I stopped off at the local bar where the two twin bar girls (one girl with ginger hair and the other sporting a very bright orange wig) were attending.
'Oh, hello! What can I get for you today fine sir!' said one.
'Just a water, bar girl,' I replied, sitting down on a stool and adopting as powerful a position as I could.
'So what brings you here today?' said the other one.
'I'm new here. I travel from town to town starting businesses, getting rich from them and moving on. I'm looking to start a new business here.'
'Oh, will it have shoes?'
'Or scarves?'
'I could use a nice cashmere sweater.'
'Well... Maybe I'll put it all in there. Imagine, a store where everything you'll ever need is all in one place. It could have many different departments. I'll call it a... department... store!' The girls giggled at such an outrageous idea.
'I love it, but what kinds of shoes will you have?'
'Tell me, who are the people worth talking to in this kingdom?' I asked, ignoring them. The girls scowled. They had spent the whole first episode looking for potential partners and they were annoyed that this man seemed to have no interest.
'Why, we're right here good sir. Who else could you need?'
'I need someone who can help me start a business. An investor of sorts. Now tell me who that is.'
'Absolutel. But first, did we ever tell you that Stacey here came first in the Camelot beer-swilling competition?'
'I don't care about your drunken antics, who are the people worth talking to?!' I said, raising my voice. The director, who was sitting side of stage and calling the action, spoke up.
'In walks Count Percival, notorious womanizer and also an avid businessman.' In walked my friend Peter, who had been in the first episode.
'Hello Stacey, hello Tracey. The usual thanks. And try not to get those pretty hands dirty.' The girls giggled and gave him his drink he turned around and spotted me. 'You sir... You have an air about you... You have money, yes?'
'I do! I can tell you're very well-off yourself.'
'Well I can't disagree.'
'Tell me, how would you like a new investment?'
'I'm intrigued, go on...'
'I'm opening a new kind of store where everything can be bought in one place. It'll be called a department store.'
'Sir... that's so crazy it just might work.'
'So do I have a partner?'
'You sure do.' He shook my hand and the lights went out, signalling the end of a scene. The next time I was brought on stage, the directions given were:

'Profectus has approached Castle Wagner to meet Count Wagner. Ruler of the lands. He must ask for the land required to build his department store.' I knocked on the side of the stage and Count Wagner (played by a man named Joe) told me to enter.
'Sir. It's an honour to meet you,' I said, bowing.
'Likewise,' he replied regally.
'Sir, I've come through many lands, building businesses, acquiring riches and creating wealth and industry for the people of each land. I've come seeking permission to do so in your land.'
'What exactly can you do for my people?'
'It will create jobs and attract people from many other lands. This new type of store I'll build will be something unseen by anyone before. It will make your town richer.'
'And... what's in it for me?'
'What do you mean sir?'
'Well, anyone who sets up a business here must pay his taxes.'
'I see. How much would you ask?'
'15%'
'That's a fair price sir, but how about 10?'
'15% will be the tax. AND... you must send one person up to the castle each day.'
'For what sir?'
'Oh, you know... to chat... keep me company...'
Being the avid businessperson I was, I knew that people would only let you have your way if there was something in it for them. Yes, 15% would be a lot of money to just give away to a lonely Count. But if it meant I could start up my store, I would have to take it. I agreed to his terms.

I was in one more scene that episode because there were other storylines happening as well. It involved the initial opening of the store. I didn't have much to sell in it yet, but I did point out that there would be a space to display very high-ticket items. Objects that were ancient, mystical and had "special powers" for anyone who believed in such folly. Deep down I knew that nothing could give a person power other than his own sweat and cunning. But there were plenty of people who felt otherwise and who was I to shatter their illusion? Plus, it would make sure I was still a pivotal character in the plot.

I the next episode, I really hit my stride. As my store grew in size, I became more and more powerful and manipulative. I was in about half the scenes because I'd started to make deals and alliances with most of the other characters. I even had a staff member, a lad named Cletus (played by fellow stand-up comic Tristrom) who used to be the king's court jester. It was interesting how it happened. I was conducting a tense business meeting with a mysterious unnamed old stranger who claimed she could obtain rare artifacts for me. I'd admitted that I'd had my sources investigate her and they'd come up with nothing. But I wasn't letting that take away the power I had in the negotiations. Suddenly, there was a knock on the door.

'Um yes, hello?' said a timid Cletus.
'What's the meaning of this?!' I shouted, outraged at the interruption.
'Um hi, I'm Cetus. I'm... looking for work.'
'I'M BUSY!!' I roared.
'Um, yes, I can, uh... see that. But I'm a very hard worker and I pick things up quickly.' His persistence in the face of his fear softened me. I relaxed and turned back to my associate.
'I'm terribly sorry, will you give me a minute?'
'Go ahead.'
I turned back to Cletus.
'You want to work for me?'
'Yes sir.'
'Alright, I have one rule that all my staff must adhere to.'
'What's that?'
'They must all be proficient jugglers.'
This was a trick. I (the real me) knew that Tristrom could juggle, so I thought it would be an amusing turn of events. He grabbed five jugglers balls from off-stage and began to dazzle the crowd with his brilliance after a short display, I shook his hand.
'Congratulations, you start tomorrow. Now get out, this is important.'

The next scene, I found that I'd gotten myself to a stage where I could introduce humour to the character. It was Cletus' first day on the job.
'9:01 Cletus. You're late.'
'Sorry boss. Traffic was awful.'
'Yes, I suppose we need less horses on the road... Anyway. There's a customer at the door. Make sure you do a good job. And remember what I told you about upselling.'
'...Always do it?'
'Correct.'
In walked John Hopegood (played by the young and handsome Paul). He was the man tasked with hunting the Dark Arts in all its forms. He walked up to Cletus...
'Yes hi, I'd like to buy a cushion please.'
'Certainly... would you like a sofa with that?' He looked nervously at me and I gave him a very firm thumbs-up.
'I suppose that's not a bad idea.'
'Great! Here's a nice satin cushion for you (he picked one up from the side of the stage), and I'll just have to place the order for the couch. In the meantime, that will be 14 pieces of gold.'
'Her you go.'
'Great, I'll just run in the back to place the order.' He ran off and I stepped in.
'Sorry sir, what my assistant forgot to tell you is that we have a tax in place of one cushion per transaction.' I casually took the cushion out of his hands and placed it back on the shelf.
'Well that seems rather unfair.'
'Hey, I don't make the rules...'
'Well, can you at least tell me when my sofa will arrive?'
'Oh look, I don't want to make any undue promises...'
'...'
'...'
'...'
'...'
'...Okay... Listen, I've been tasked with hunting the Dark Arts in all its forms and I have to tell you, this place reeks of it.'
'Pfft, nonsense! The Dark Arts are for the weak. I prefer a good old-fashioned honest day's work.'
'You just sold me nothing for 14 gold pieces!'
'Using no dark magic whatsoever!'
'Listen you, I'll find out what you're up to. You mark my words... I'll be back.' And he turned and stormed off.

Nothing ever came of that storyline. There were some things that happened that the directors decided wouldn't fit with the rest of the story and they just let them fade into obscurity. Like my final scene for that episode where I met The Shadow of Death (one of the most talented and experienced improvisers, Simon, who was wearing a black headscarfe that obscured his face). I'd grown tired of my store. That was running smoothly and there was nothing more I could do for it. Now I'd turned my sights to the other important thing in my life - power. In a previous scene, Count Wagner had voiced his concern that I wasn't sending up townsfolk to visit him. He'd raised his tax to 30% of the income and two visitors every day. I accepted his terms because there was nothing else I could do. But now I wanted him gone.

'You're in love with that Tracey girl are you not?'
'Yes, but she's upset because of the whole "murdering her family" thing. What does she expect, I'm the Shadow of Death!'
'It must be hard for you.'
'Yes it is. I wish I didn't have this curse.'
'What if I could remove it for you?'
'You... Can you?'
'I have contacts. I could get this curse removed forever. What would you do to be rid of it?'
'I'd do anything! I have untold amounts of money, gathered over the course of centuries from my many victims.'
'I have money too, Shadow. What I need more of is power. Shadow, I need you to kill Count Wagner.'
The Shadow paused for a long time.
'But... I swore off killing... for Tracey.'
'It's just one kill. What's one kill in the face of thousands you've committed in the past?'
'No... I won't do it.'
'Suit yourself...' and I began to walk off-stage.
'Wait!' he cried and a breathed a silent sigh of relief.
'What if I... brutally maimed him?'
'It needs to be enough so he can never rule again. Do we have a deal?'
'...Alright,' and he held out his hand. I went to shake it and missed because, you know... he's a shadow. And then the lights went out.

That was as good as it got for me. At that stage, all the interstate performers returned and got ready to come back in for the next episode. It also signaled the return of the interstate director, who hadn't seen most of what had transpired in the last four hours. In the break between episodes, she took us all backstage to talk to us.
'Now for those of you who have been in it up until now, obviously the rest of us haven't seen what's been going on so what goes on from here will be very different. Just go along with it.'
That worried me. I felt like my character had been set now and that any drastic changes in the story would upset that. I'd been told I'm pretty good at just going along with anything that happens on stage, but I do find it hard to accept when things change for no discernible reason. And along with the interstate performers, there had also arrived a girl in the crowd that I kind of wanted to impress. We all returned to the stage to introduce the fourth episode and give our hot 30s. We were told to make it quick as there were so many people taking part now. When I was called up on stage, I strode up, faced the audience and in the most direct, commanding voice I could muster, I said
'There are two things that matter in this world. Money and power. That is all.' And I turned and strode off the stage again. Hopefully that would give everyone enough of an idea of what my character was like.

The director set the first scene. Sam, who was of course wearing six hats and had used his hot 30 to ask if an audience member wanted to buy some snake oil, was sitting up a stall in the marketplace. I was directed to set up a stall next to him. So much for my department store.
'Snake-oil! Get your snake oil here!' yelled Sam. 'Oh hello, what's your name?'
'My name's Profectus,' I said with a sneer.
'Barnabus Pennyfeather's the name (I don't remember what his character's actual name was, I'm just making them up at this point), pleasure to meet you,' he said, extending his hand. I looked at his hand with distaste and then ignored it.
'I'm new in town and just looking to make some money. I didn't come here to make friends.'
'Too right!' he replied and his cockney British accent. 'So what are you selling here?'
'...Fish oil.'
'Well it can't be better than make snake oil. Do you want to buy some?'
'This here is the finest fish oil in all the land!' I said, staring off heroically into the distance.
'Oh yeah? I bet you fished it yourself out of the murky depths of the Adriatic?'
'No, I just bought it from the store.'
'You bought it from the store so you could sell it at a store?'
'...Thought of it myself.' That got a slight chuckle.
Nick walked on stage and addressed us in his trademark Irish accent.
'Well hello there! I'm in the market to buy some oil. Who's the best person to speak to for that?' Before I could say anything, Sam jumped in.
'Step right this way sir! Just take a seat here and relax. I'll show you the finest snake oil in the land. And while you check that out, I'll give you a massage, free of charge. How does that sound?'
'That sounds delightful, thank you sir!' He sat down and Sam got to work. The two of them started having a conversation in which I wasn't involved in the slightest. I looked away because I didn't want it to seem like I was eavesdropping. But Nick picked that moment to notice me.
'Are you listening over there? Am I just talking to myself?'
'These newcomers are rude aren't they?'
'You're telling me. Unbelievable it is, the nerve of some of these people.'
'I've got an idea,' said Sam. Why don't you come over here and massage the customer and I'll take care of your fish oil.'
What was I going to do, reject him all night? I reluctantly agreed. I set to work massaging Nick while he and Sam continued merrily on with their conversation and Sam pocketed all of my bottles of fish oil one by one.

The next scene (that I can remember) involved a party at Madhorn's house (he was the chief adviser to the king and was played by Rik). I received my invite and met him at the front door.
'Oh, you must be Profectus!' he yelled in his grand posh accent. I've been looking forward to meeting you, a strong like-minded individual!'
'Yes, I'm... looking forward... to likening my mind... to yours,' I mumbled. I was now officially out of my depth. These guys were all to quick and zany and my slow, careful method of acting didn't fit too well.
'I've heard many things about your skill in massagery!' said Madhorn.
'Yes, that's right. I'm the best.' I'd come to accept that that was a thing with my character now.
'Well don't use that skill on me. I like a bit of stress in my shoulders. Good for the libido. Really gets you up and going in the morning if you catch my drift, compadre.'
More guests came in and - as expected - I was consigned to giving guests massages in the corner of the stage. After all the action panned out, Madhorn proposed a toast.
'I've truly enjoyed meeting every one of you. And as a parting gift to you all, I slipped something into your drinks, and now for the next hour, anyone who asks a question will fall into a coma. Goodnight!' and the scene ended.

'Next, we see Profectus getting ready for bed,' called the director. What was I supposed to do with that? I ambled onto the stage yawning and stretching. I peeked out of the curtains and lay out my blankets. I took from my pocket the big gold cold that I'd been carrying around with me for the last two episodes and tried to twirl it around my fingers as an exercise. I can usually do that, but this time the coin was too big and there was a crowd watching. So I failed miserably.
'I'll get it one day,' I mumbled and then lay down on the floor to go to sleep. I mumbled to myself, hoping desperately that someone would come in and offer something to work with. Thankfully, Nick approached the side of the stage with girl named Maddy. She's also very talented and extremely passionate about theater in all forms. Tonight she'd been playing a girl named Nicole who had previously been masquerading as a boy named Nick, but had since revealed herself. Nicole and Nick's character (let's just call him Jeffrey) were trying to coordinate a plan to sneak into my window and ransack the place. I heard the commotion and sat bolt upright.
'What's that noise?' I called. In came the voice of the director.
'Oh no, Profectus has asked a question! He falls into a coma!' and I obediently fell back again while the audience laughed.
Nicole and Jeffrey were arguing when Nicole knelt down beside me.
'He's not moving... Do you think he's dead?'
'Nicole's asked a question! She falls into a coma too!'
Nicole fell across me and Jeffrey grabbed everything he could and ran off. That's where the scene ended. When we came back, Nicole was still lying on top of me. I woke up and was only able to lift my head since my arms were pinned down.
'What's going on?' I asked.
'Question!'
'Oh crap,' and I fainted again. Scene over.
Two scenes later we were back and Nicole had gotten more comfortable. We were lying straight instead of perpendicular to each other and she was resting her head on my chest. I woke up again and without saying a word, slowly rolled Nicole to the side. Lucky I did it slowly, because I forgot there was a table next to us and she hit it with the back of her head. Whoops. I stood up and Nicole opened her eyes.
'Who are- I don't recognise you,' I said carefully to giggles from the audience.'
'I don't recognise you either,' she replied.
'...You feel compelled to tell me what's going on.' The audience laughed hard.
'I don't know, I just came in your window and suddenly I was on top of you.'
'I think it's obvious then. We both met at Madhorn's party. We both got drunk and went back to my place and then I blew you mind.'
'No, that doesn't sound right,' said Nicole getting up, and the audience laughed harder again.
'Listen... What are you doing later?'  I fell over before the audience had even had a chance to squeal with delight. Then scene ended and I headed to where all the other actors were waiting. That girl I'd wanted to impress leaned towards me and whispered
'Did you do that on purpose?'
'Yep,' I replied, thankful that she's gotten it.

I had one more scene in the episode and it took place right at the end of my date with Nicole. I could tell the audience had finally become interested in my character again as they waited to see how this romance blossomed.
'Well... I had a nice night,' I said.
'Good,' she replied.
'I'd... like to know how it was for you?' Some audience members gasped.
'Oh shush, that wasn't a question!' I barked directly to the audience and they lost it. Although I had to admit, the upward inflection I'd put on the end of that sentence did make it sound like a question.
'Profectus's knees get weak as his half-question takes effect,' called the director. I stumbled around as if I were drunk. 'Nicole and Profectus can't look at each other - they're too nervous.' We both started giggling like school kids and avoiding each other's gaze.
'Yes, it was very good for me too,' replied Nicole.
'Oh good, I'm glad...' I was grinning and still swaying and avoiding her gaze.
'We should... do this again some time.' she said.
'I can't take it anymore!' I yelled and I ran across the stage and kissed her. There were a couple of cat-calls from the audience and the lights faded out while we were still kissing. As I walked off the stage I caught the eyes of the girl I'd been trying to impress. Her face was blank - she didn't care.

That episode ended and Maddy and I both had the next episode off. I went to Subway for some dinner and to check my emails etc. I was very disappointed that all my work in the first four hours had been undone and that the girl hadn't seen any of the good stuff - she'd only seen the part where I'd struggled. But I was happy that I had eventually found a new direction that was just as interesting. I arrived back at the venue in time for the final episode, where we were once again taken out the back.
'Now this is where it all wraps up, so here's where you can use all your big ideas,' said the director. But don't forget, we have A LOT of actors in this last episode, so please be patient. We have to share the stage-time as much as possible.

We ran through our hot 30s again for all the people who had just arrived (people had been arriving and leaving all thoughout the show). When Nicole was called, she didn't say anything. She just touched her lips and giggled, before running off. The audience members who had been there since last episode got the joke and laughed. It made me smile.
I was expecting to be the next one called, but I wasn't. The director ran through several names and everyone introduced themselves in a quick, succinct manner. Then the director set up the first scene and away they went. She'd completely forgotten about me. I was mortified. How could she have forgotten me? I had talked to her about my involvement in this finale not ten minutes ago! I wanted to approach her and let her know what had happened. But now the episode had started. I didn't think she'd want to add an extra person in at that stage. At least that's what I told myself. The truth is, I think that being so far out of my depth in the previous episodes had ruined my confidence. I'd convinced myself this wasn't my game any more. The only hope I had now was if the director realised her mistake on her own and tried to slip me back into the story.

Nicole had her first appearance in the second scene of the episode. She was riding on a horse alongside another character who was asking how she was.
'I'm great,' replied Nicole. 'I met a boy.'
'Oh really? Do tell!'
'Well, I was originally climbing into his window to steal from him, but then I ended up-'
A third character stepped onto the stage crying and the two horse-riders stopped and investigated. All talk of the boy was quickly forgotten. Well... At least she tried.
I ended up spending the last two hours watching from the back of the room, bitter because it looked like they were having a load of fun, and because I was so bloody tired from all the performing I'd done in the last few weeks. I could have gone to bed at 9, but I'd stayed up until midnight in anticipation of this final adventure. And I ended up not being a part of it.

So that... that's the story of one of my biggest disappointments in showbiz. I'm sure I'll be able to make amends at some point, but for now I'm still stewing about it.




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