Whoa, We’re Half Way There!

Well, we’ve crossed the half-way mark of 2022!

This year has been a bit of a test of stamina and fortitude and has certainly made a lot of people feel a lot older than they are.

Personally I’ve been feeling much older, tireder and sadder than usual, and that was before I tested positive for Covid a few weeks ago.

I was fortunate to be almost completely asymptomatic while testing positive, which is great health-wise (I would have gladly felt sicker if it meant those who have suffered through their symptoms could have some relief), but it was frustrating to be stuck in quarantine while feeling fine – Much like my Adventures in Tachycardia years ago.

It’s gave me some time to write, which was great after months of being too busy, or too demoralized to do it.

It also gave me some time to think, which wasn’t such a great thing.

Because I’ve been going through a bit of a mid-life crisis recently.

Feeling My Age

After all the carry-on of recent years, like everyone else, I was looking forward to a bit of a break this year – a silver lining after a couple years of cloud.

At Christmas I got Dave Grohl’s autobiographical “The Storyteller”

I love the Foo Fighters.

I have all their albums and the last concert I went to before the “proper adulthood” of becoming a parent was their show at Western Springs in 2011. So when then the band announced they would be touring Australasia later this year I was looking forward to going and seeing. them in Wellington.

But then their drummer, Taylor Hawkins, died suddenly, and all tours were understandably canceled.

More pressingly it potentially meant the imminent end of the Foo Fighters.

They have had a fantastic run: 28 years, over 10 albums, millions of fans and a permanent place at the alter of Rock & Roll.

But the threat of losing a cultural cornerstone in my life suddenly made me feel really old.

It occurred to me that to my daughter the Foo Fighters are what The Eagles were to me – Memorable, good music, but old.

Like me.

Because this year I’ll be turning 45.

Where Did the Years Go?

Last year I applied for a promotion at the company I have been working at for almost two decades. I have been in what is essentially an entry-level position for the duration. I’ve requested training or transfer during this time, but have been constantly overlooked while my supervisors have move onward, upward, or outward with triennial regularity.

One manager even told me my position “wasn’t worth (external) training” during the “austerity years” of the Global Financial Crisis.

So when one of these supervisor positions came up I applied. It was shortlisted to myself and the office’s new university graduate, who had been with us for one year. The graduate started primary school the year I started with the company (literally – we worked it out).

Naturally the graduate got the promotion and I missed out.

I felt massively disappointed and let down, but I wasn’t surprised.

Almost 20 years is a very long time to dedicate yourself to a job with unsociable hours, doing almost exactly the same things every day, week, month and year.

It felt like I have wasted a huge chunk of my working life.

These years have also seen a lot of upheavals in and effecting my life:

Understandably it’s hard to gain or maintain momentum in such choppy seas.

While it’s been an ungrateful job not letting me develop something resembling a career, it has at least been a stable job and income, allowing us to somehow live comfortably as a single-income family making just over the average wage in a time when many multiple-income families seriously struggle to make ends meet.

It feels like I’ve already lived several lifetimes in less than two decades, while, due to the unrelenting repetition of my job it simultaneously feels like I blinked in 2013 and suddenly find myself here in 2022.

Worse still, a couple years ago my my daughter’s primary school had a Kapa Haka performance. Her school hall was too small, so they used the auditorium at my old secondary school – Tamatea High.

I sat in my old school auditorium where I did lighting, theater and orchestra, had assemblies, dances and prizegivings, in the same chairs, in the same row as three women who all went to that school with me (our daughters all happen to be friends) it occurred to me it was 25 years to the day since we last all sat there at our final assembly and prizegiving in 1995.

A quarter of a century!

Where had my life gone?!

Parental Guidance Required

Losing both parents before the age of 40 hasn’t helped.

Most of my friends still have at least one, often both parents still alive. I no longer have that moral, financial, or physical support there any more.

And sometimes all you need is your Mum or Dad just being there to tell you it’s OK, you are valued by someone.

Being a parent, my morals and values have created a bit of a paradox for me.

As I’ve written multiple time before, all I wanted to be in life (other than a radio announcer – and those aspirations have been shafted on multiple occasions) was as good a father as mine was to me.

I have gone to work for the last nine years, not for myself, but to provide a safe, warm, loving home and to ensure there is always food on the table for my wife and daughter.

(That sounds terribly clichéd, but it’s an honorable, old-school trait I got from my Dad – That said, an enjoyable job where I’m allow to develop and get to be creative wouldn’t go amiss. I continue to write in the hope that lightning might strike multiple times…)

The Saving Private Ryan scene where the old man asks his wife to “Tell me I’m a good man” breaks my heart every time, because that’s what I try to be – a good man, and a good father.

It appears that I’ve been pretty successful so far:

But that’s where the paradox comes in.

I’m succeeding at the paternal part of life, but failing miserably to get anywhere in the career side of things, and I need a change.

I can’t keep wearing myself down where “appreciation” never equals advancement, because that makes me feel un(der)valued and will make me depressed, grumpy and what I would consider to be a bad parent at home.

I also can’t just give the job up, because that erases our income, support and it will feel like I really have wasted the last 18 years of my life.

All of this as I approach 45 – Half way through my working life and a shade over half the current life expectancy for a male New Zealander.

No wonder I’ve really started going grey in the past two years.

The Portrait of Dorian Frame

Man in the Mirror

One of the main problems with aging is you can never really tell how old you look.

I have no idea what 45 year old me looks like.

When you look in the mirror you still basically see the same face you’ve always seen staring back at you.

New lines and wrinkles, perhaps a few more grey hairs, even a few scars that weren’t always there, but those are still your eyes and that is still your face.

Looking online for celebrity comparison is seldom helpful.

If you have grown up with certain stars or starlets they too look not greatly different from years before, as you are aging in parallel. For others, as their careers can rely to a large degree on their looks, the amount of care and work that has been put into maintaining a level of youth or vitality through out the years can somewhat skew any accurate visual age auditability.

All these famous faces also turn 45 this year. Yes, even Shakira!.
#Funfact: John Oliver and John Cena (top middle & right) were born the exact same day – April 23, 1977!

At the other end of the scale, trailer-wreck television shows like Jeremy Kyle often showed the ages of people who hadn’t looked after themselves so well, making those in their 20s look closer to 60.

While nowhere near as petro-chemical an intake as those on such shows, some parts of my diet haven’t changed in 30 years – I still eat like a teenager whenever I can.

Chocolate, chips and double-coated Tim-Tams are still treat staples in my diet.

I try to justify with my wife that a $1 chocolate bar is a fair courier fee when I’m sent to the supermarket to get groceries. She never seems to agree.

Illicit snacks are probably the only food I eat that hasn’t changed over the years, though.

In recent times, with rising food prices(/supermarket profits) and differing nutritional needs our family’s diet has become largely “flexitarian”, often vegetarian for us adults, with favored frankfurters or oven-baked chicken nuggets for our daughter.

The influx of such a diverse range of cultures into Hawke’s Bay over the past decade has also ensured a vastly different spectrum of food is now available with tastes and flavors so far removed from what we grew up with.

Cabbage boiled until tasteless and translucent has happily been consigned to the depths of history.

But with so many other things from our youth making comebacks, the allure of a “second childhood” midlife crisis can be hard to resist.

Many model catalogues and video game magazines gave their pages for this and other collages I made in my teenage years.

Let’s do the Timewarp

I’ve been told I “suffer from nostalgia”.

I don’t consider it suffering.

I enjoy the link with the past – fond memories of good times and those no longer with us.

The recent revival of so many pop culture icons, movie franchises and toy ranges from my childhood hasn’t helped.

Star Wars sequels, streaming series and retro toy lines, Top Gun: Maverick, Ghostbusters: Afterlife, Masters of the Universe figurines and cartoon reboots.

I sold my original MotU collection after rediscovering it while clearing out my parents’ place several years ago.

With a bit more disposable income recently I started reliving a bit of my youth – returning to making models, and collecting cool pop culture items.

And then I discovered the rabbit hole of classic Tamiya radio controlled cars on YouTube.

Growing up in the 80s and the 90s was a fantastic time for tech toys, as RC cars were just coming into their element.

Japanese model making giant Tamiya were the pinnacle of those cars. Tamiya made the most amazing scale models – Tanks, cars, motorcycles, boats, planes.

Each year they released a stunning new, full color catalogue the thickness of a magazine. They were chock-full of pictures of their range of kits, fully built, painted and decaled. Sometimes there were sections dedicated to exquisite dioramas featuring their kits.

My collection of 1/35 scale Tamiya model tanks,
(Except for the Sherman (second from the left) which is italeri)

What I distinctly remember about these catalogues was their smell.

They were so big and so packed full of glossy pictures that the smell of the print would just about knock you backwards the first time you opened the latest issue (and for weeks after).

It was INTOXICATING! (or a gateway drug to substance abuse given the similar levels of paint an glue fumes modelers are exposed to on a regular basis – It’s truly amazing I never got into drinking spirits until my 30s…)

But the crème de la crème of Tamiya production was radio controlled cars.

Hot Shot, Bigwig, Boomerang and Lunchbox were the names given to some of the most fantastic “Toys” anyone in the 80s or 90s could have.

These cars were so advanced and different that the first Tamiya RC kits I saw in Hawke’s Bay weren’t even even available from hobby shops, but from a service station in St Aubyn Street, Hastings! (This is more likely just because the station owner had imported the kits themselves, but it certainly added to the kits’ advanced, “mechanical” allure!)

We never had the money for Tamiya radio controlled car kits, which were worth $200-$300 back in the 80s – a substantial amount of money!

I still have two of my original Tamiya Mini 4WD:
Super Sabre (L) and Hot Shot (R)

I was able to get a few Tamiya “Mini4WD” cars – small, vastly cheaper facsimiles of the bigger RC body styles, but twin AA battery powered, and only able to drive in straight lines.

I did get a relatively cheap Nikko radio controlled car called a Thunderbolt for a birthday or Christmas present once, and a I think Dad bought a similar one off a work colleague when the Thunderbolt lost its zap.

“Frame Buggy”. No relation.

But Tamiya cars were still the Holy Grail of autonomous off-roading. I can still picture in my mind going to an air show and seeing someone running their Lunchbox – a big, bright yellow “Monster Truck” van. It was iconic then and it still is now.

So when I saw one in my local hobby shop “Cool Toys” in Napier I fell in love all over again!

Amazingly the price tags for these cars have remained largely the same as 30+ years ago, mainly thanks to the advancement of technology making the formerly expensive parts much cheaper and more prevalent as time has gone by.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve started to build and tinker with more things too, something that my Dad exceled at, but I never had the confidence to, so these advanced kits that always looked so complex and intimidating when I was younger aren’t so scary any more.

If I get commissioned to write something again this year I know where that money is going to!

But in the meantime I’m still stuck in a rut.

Needing Traction

Having something to strive for is often often a good plan. We all have goals or targets we want to reach. Even I have a list of things I’d like to achieve each year.

But, like i said, I’m a bit lost at sea at the moment.

Static

My fatherly goal is going well, but my dreams of media domination, or at least employed participation, seem further and further away as the years go by.

I had such high hopes as a “Co-Pilot” on Bay City Radio’s Sunday morning kids show one day back in 1985, or doing Saturday “Midnight to Dawns” at Hot93 in Hastings over the summer and autumn of 1996 …

But while I would still love to be on radio, I’m at least able to recognize that it is, or rather used to be, a young person’s game.

There are young people out there who want a career in NZ media and who are better and more deserving of a shot than I am, and certainly better than many currently being broadcast who have been there for far too long.

In the 90s regional commercial radio was the domain of those in their 20s. Three to five years on air was considered a “career” then you moved on to programming, management sales, or left the station and got a “real job”.

I wish this was a new problem, but it has been going on for as long as I’ve been a curmudgeon! 😉

But thanks to simulcast networking, as well as a big dose of cronyism and favoritism a handful of those 90s 20-somethings went on to rule radio airwaves across the country for 20 or more years.

Younger talent never got a look in or an opportunity on air and what could barely be considered average regional radio at best was nationally broadcast, claiming to be “the best” the networks could offer.

The industry has suffered for this ever since, but still to this day fails to recognize or try and rectify their own systemic errors.

I say radio “used to be” a young person’s game because I wonder if it still is?

So many have been turned off radio by the same tired old voices and shtick for years and years that they now get their audio entertainment from podcasts and music streaming services.

It has become a generational shift and seen radio listenership plummet. Not that the commercial networks have ever had the self-awareness to acknowledge why people no longer listen to a favored few broadcasters who are no longer relevant to anyone but themselves and their management mates.

Traditional broadcast radio may still have a market amongst us older types who grew up with it, but I still think there are more than enough middle aged white men in the industry.

Perhaps that dream will just have to fade away.

Invisible Ink

I like writing and am told I’m quite good at it. I even get paid to write very occasionally but, as I’ve said, nowhere near enough to make a living out of it. So it’s more of a hobby, or a side hustle to relieve me of the repetitive monotony of my actual job.

I was inspired from an early age by great local newspaper journalists like Roger Moroney of what was Napier’s Daily Telegraph back then who had a real way with words and the public. He was Hawke’s Bay’s print version of a radio announcer – well respected and liked by many. When I started writing in my teens I sent my work to him for appraisal and feedback which he constructively gave.

I never went to university, or got a journalism diploma or degree, as it was a craft I was still perfecting and it seemed like such a waste to spend years and thousands of dollars I didn’t have studying how to write, research and interview like I already could.

Sadly at the time there was an obsession amongst employers of all types for applicants requiring qualifications. It didn’t seem to matter that you could do the job, you didn’t have a piece of paper to prove you’d learned about it, so no job here, sunshine!

Even today this is a stumbling block for entry into a media career with most media outlets, even if my “unqualified” writing is still better than a lot of the “officially sanctioned” stuff that gets published.

I have been fortunate to get to write for Hawke’s Bay’s premium thought-provoking glossy magazine Baybuzz on several occasions.

There are, at least, some cadetship programs being brought back after decades of dormancy.

Cadetships are essentially earn-as-you-learn-on-the-job apprenticeships in media.

John Campbell was a cadet reporter in Wellington many years ago and look at the years of marvelous work he has produced!

The cadetships I have seen promoted are tied in with Local Government Reporting or Public Interest Journalism funding and predominantly aim to increase the cultural diversity of newsrooms and coverage across the country – something that has been lacking and deserving of more coverage.

Sadly they don’t really apply to middle aged men in regional New Zealand, so my chances of becoming New Zealand’s oldest Cadet Reporter are looking decidedly slim.

Were I to get the opportunity, where would I do it, though? Locally, naturally.

I live, love, breathe, and bleed Hawke’s Bay.

In high school I would have said “The Daily Telegraph” in a heartbeat.

But what was The Daily Telegraph became Hawke’s Bay Today in the 1990s, as APN, the forebear of NZME, combined Napier’s newspaper with Hastings’ Herald Tribune.

As you may already know, the story or regional newspapers around New Zealand and the world takes a bit of a dive from not long after that time as the internet, social media and the like took off and newspaper publishers struggled to keep up.

Costs were cut and newsrooms gutted, which meant less local news, which meant less local readership and advertising, which meant more cost cutting and loss of staff covering local news… and so it spiraled – You get the idea.

Sadly the media executives (often the same or similar ones who gutted local radio) haven’t.

A friend of mine told me in 2019 that I’d “picked the worst time to be this good at writing”.

This was before Covid hit and corporate media culled hundreds of staff numbers to protect their profits during those uncertain months in 2020.

More and more content in New Zealand’s regional newspapers is now imported from other sources, locations around the country like Auckland HQ, or other branches of the network with no relevance to the regions they are being published in, or even the realities of life for most of its readers.

I can’t morally justify working for a media network than shuns investment in local comment and content, but seems happy to pay its already over-incentivised radio announcers for large, irrelevant opinion pieces.

The propensity with which their editors and executives allow what look like hack-eyed hit jobs to be repeatedly multi-platformed across their networks undermines the credibility of all the hard working journalists, and media in New Zealand as a whole.

The same tabloid-format trolls then have the gall to project the blame for a growing lack of public trust in the media and the reason for their own faults and failures on social media!

It must be a tough life working on both commercial television and state radio…

Were Hawke’s Bay Today to make a clean break from their current corporate overlords and return to their local roots, like the Wairarapa Times Age, then we could talk.

I’m not holding my breath, though.

Pro-Promotion

If you’re not from Hawke’s Bay chances are you’ve “met me” via social media.

Of all the tweets about Napier and Hawke’s Bay on Twitter I’ve probably been responsible for about 120 percent of them (*citation required).

I also, on occasion, write about places like Auckland!

I love my hometown and region and want as many people as possible to enjoy its wonders, so I spend a lot of my spare time promoting and singing its praises.

I do this for free.

I’ve always liked promotion / sales and have always had a pretty decent knack for it but that, like radio, never blossomed into a career (minimum wage retail in the 90s/00s doesn’t count).

The promotional work I did voluntarily out of high school probably did me more harm than good, and I a result I now I seldom volunteer for anything as I value my time and skills far more now than i did then.

Little has changed since.

While my social media exploits have led to meeting a lot of great people and some unique experiences, over 12 years on it still hasn’t been the doorway to opportunity and career change that I dreamed and worked towards it being.

Yet I still do it.

Professionally promoting Napier appears to be a closed shop, as I’ve applied for numerous roles and seldom even heard back that I’d been unsuccessfull. When I ask what I can do to improve.my chances next opportunity the silence is deafening.

My visions for Napier and the future of Hawke’s Bay extend far beyond just temporary tourism, and the foibles of recent Napier City Council administrations act as more of a sign of long term, systemic bureaucratic failure than encouragement to stand for election.

Over the past decades I have done my best to effect change from the outside and I’ve been reasonably successful.

But it’s been tiring and ultimately hasn’t gotten me anywhere.

“I could’a been a contender!”

What If?

How much of your life would you change if you could?

There have been a multiverse of movies, stories and shows about alternative realities in recent years.

The Marvel Cinematic Universe currently leads the pack on screens, but from way back at H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, to The Time Traveller’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger.and the recent, brilliant The Midnight Library by Matt Haig time travel and being able to change your past or future has been a literary staple and a moral mental conundrum.

In Richard Curtis’ movie “About Time” Tim learns the men in his family can go back in time and relive certain events, or fix certain things. At one point in the movie he goes back in time to help his sister who has hit rough times. He does so, and when he returns to the present his sister is much better off, but he finds his daughter is now (and always has been on this timeline) his son. He decides to go back again and let events occur as they were for his sister, who eventually comes out all right, and his family is as it always was.

One theme that continues throughout many of the time travel / multiverse movies and books I have read or watched is love and sacrifice. Especially paternal love and sacrifice.

There is a scene later on with the dad, played by the superlative Bill Nighy, which I won’t spoil for you, other than to say it’s perfect and heart-breaking and really struck home with me, as I saw the movie not long after losing my own father.

If my timeline had been different i could have been Guy Williams.

Seriously!

And not just because we both wear glasses and are about the same height…(he is ten years younger than me, though)

Guy got his big break on a show called “Dai’s Protege“, where media darling Dai Henwood mentored a bunch of prospective comedians, whittling them down to a winner.

I was working on my comedy and stand-up here in Hawke’s Bay at the time and seriously thought of entering, but didn’t because it would mean leaving my job at the time, moving to Auckland (prohibitively expensive at the best of times) with no income or place to stay, and being the “protege” of someone whose schtick I couldn’t stand let alone want to carry on as their “apprentice” (one of the only times I haven’t supported apprenticeships).

No Frame fame in this reality, but no playing third banana to Jono and Ben, or continuing on the same Pulp Comedy / 7 Days legacy of talent that has only been broken up in recent series after 20+ years of the same few people hogging the spotlight in another NZ media format.

Photographic proof of my eventual, one-off stand-up comedy career Photo courtesy of Raybon Kan

If you prescribe to the multiverse theory there are realities out there where I have had nothing but success, and others with nothing but failure.

I have experienced a reasonably health balance.

I could do without a lot of the pain I have endured in my life to date.

The disappointments, the heartbreaks, the scars, the lack of faith, the micromanagement by people with no idea of what I do or am capable of, and missed opportunities.

But those things all make me the person I am – The good, the bad and the ugly.

Ouch.

As someone once said to me:

“Life is like a heart rate – It has its ups and downs. If it’s a flat line, you’re dead!”

In the Eric Bana starring movie adaptation of The Time Traveler’s Wife (#FunFact: Rachel McAdams plays the titular wife of time traveler in both this movie AND About Time) Bana and McAdams’ characters have difficulty conceiving a baby because of Henry’s (Bana’s) time-fluid genetics. On one of his blips forward in time Henry is greeted and embraced by a girl of about 10 years old – his daughter! But she is also sad, because her father died not long after she was born.

The confliction of achieving a long held goal, but at great, or even the ultimate cost.

To be fair I wasn’t Halfway Down, more like A Quarter Up…

Half Way There

So much of what I’ve been and done seems so far away in the past, and so much of what I’ve wanted to do for a long time has always been constantly just out of reach.

My Tūrangawaewae: Tamatea, Napier!

My greatest goal in life and my greatest happiness had been being a father and a lot of time, effort and pain has gone into me becoming a dad like mine.

But now my daughter is older and amazing and inspiring I feel like i need to do something for myself, but that comes with a load of guilt.

I am so proud of her, but not proud of myself, and time certainly doesn’t feel like it is on my side any more.

I’m lacking traction and direction and I desperately need it.

I’ll continue writing because, if nothing else, I enjoy it and it is an outlet. The motivation and time to continue it is getting harder to find, though.

Woah, I’m half way there, but I’m stuck in the middle.

I don’t know what I wil do, but I know that, 35 years ago or now, giving up is something I’m never gonna do.

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