An Open Letter to Procrastination

Dear Procrastination

As you know, this week I turn 35. Not that big a day on the scale of birthdays, except if like me you work in marketing. If you do happen to don the denim suit, heading into the studio each day (seriously who works in an 'office' these days) then you would know that those aged between 18 and 35 are in the desired 'youth' demographic. That means that I am about to enter into my last year of official youthdom.

You and I need to part ways. I have some living to do. But to do so, I'll have put in a mighty effort, like a conqueror of nations. A procasti-nation as it were...

I noticed I had a problem with you towards the end of last year. You know how I am trying to write that screenplay? The one that's more for my own personal creative fulfilment that for any Hollywood Studio (although if Judd Apatow is reading this and interested in a RomCom-investigative caper story in the vein of Napoleon Dynamite than he should reach out). I just haven't been able to get past page 15. It's not writers block; quite the opposite. I mapped the whole thing out in a spreadsheet scene by scene. This is purely about you. Procrastination.

Lately it seems like you are always coming around and it needs to stop. Seriously, I don't even like you. Case in point - after that last sentence I remembered my sister-in-law had gifted me a bottle of Grey Goose vodka and that I should open it. So I did. Rather than keep writing. I went to the cupboard and poured a glass. Somehow convincing myself that was what all tormented writers (and failed actors working in kids educational theatre) would do on a Wednesday night. It may have worked because I realised the rise of your presence in my life corresponded to the fading of my youth.

Could it be that as I age, I'll have more of a fear of getting on with living and doing, as the reality of there being less of life in front of me dawns? Will you dominate my persona to the point I won't even bother leaving the bed to shower or eat, hoping to compost away in my filth until I escape the chore of living altogether?

You are like arthritis of the mind. Turning up and ceasing the muscles of motivation. Flashing up trailers in my mind of shows I want to watch on Netflix, remembering that door handle I needed to fix or reminding me that such a thing as social media exists and I haven't checked in the last four minutes if Judd Apatow liked one of my tweets .

Even writing this post I am three days late to the keyboard. To avoid it I've made pumpkin soup, watched a Mel Gibson movie and taken a bubble bath. Sure, this may sound like a normal Sunday to some of you but not I! I am you and 34...for a few more days. There are things to do. They don't include experimenting with vegetable stock bases, understanding the cinematic vision of an anti-Semite catholic or wrinkling up with Mr Matey.

I look back on my life so far and wonder if I have achieved enough? Are there enough stories? Will the chapters of my memoirs entitled 'Youth' be the best bits? Or will it be more a book about overcoming feet fungus in your retirement years whilst travelling Scandinavia by kayak (I don't actually want to do that. Kayaking that is. The feet fungus thing is a no-brainer, should I ever suffer from it.)

So Procrastination. I point the finger at you. You are on notice. This year is going to count. I am going to summon up all my remaining youthful vigour and come at you like a kid on Wizz Fizz hitting a birthday party jumping castle.

To do this, I won't be posting here for while. Instead I will be deep in my script and hopefully Skyping with Mr Apatow about script development issues.

Stay tuned.




The H Holiday Part 2 - Hong Kong

The following is a 10 step guide to things that you should not do if you find yourself with 48 hours to spend in Hong Kong.

  1. Give up your spot in line for Little Bao.
    It can be tempting to abandon your place during the 30-45 minute standard wait time at Little Bao. You'll stand around with other foodies and scenesters from across the globe, a United Nations of foodstagramers, and start to doubt that a little rice bun wrapped around some Americana-inspired meat could be that great. Let me assure it is. It is like the ingredients got together in a protest against sex, puppies, AFL football, sunset campfires shared with loved ones, the voice of Dallas Green and anything else that is good in life, and said 'Let's show them what this life is really about!'
  2. Swim across the bay.
    Don't be daunted about how far across the Kowloon looks from Hong Kong island. There's no need to pull out the cap and goggles. Just jump on one of the many ferries for only $2.50HK. It was the cheapest scenic tourism experience I have since that time I stowed away in the back of a Coke truck and got a free tour of rural Russia.
  3. Expect the light show to be better than the one you did as a kid in your backyard with torches
    It won't be. Although you'll see amazing photos of a clear sky, filled with lasers that look like giant Jedi's are road testing new lightsabers, the reality is something different. It will be overcast, the "lasers" will be old searchlights left over from WW2 that need their globes changed and the music soundtrack accompanying the 'show' will be out of sync and straight from a Chinese dating show.
  4. Go to that outer neighbourhood read about in TimeOut in search of street art. 
    When you get there you will be underwhelmed at the peeling paste up that looks like it was done by Continuing Adult Education night class. Instead, hit up PMQ in the Soho area and check out a building's worth of amazing creativity that is bubbling away around the edges of Hong Kong culture.
  5. Think Starbucks is your only coffee option.
    If you find yourself in a Starbucks in Hong Kong it will be because you are either; American, desperate to use the toilet after those dodgy prawn dumplings at lunch or on a Tinder lunch date and this place was across the road from where you are working. If you aren't a citizen of a doomed country, able to control your bowel movements and spend your business trip seeing the local sites as opposed to the locals, then great coffee is yours for the taking. Elephant Grounds, The Cupping Room and the hard to find Artisan Cafe will keep you dosed right.
  6. Stay anywhere but Tuve Hotel.
    Who doesn't want to walk outside their door each morning and feel like they are on a shoot for Esquire or Vogue? This place is like a VR experience inside every design magazine or blog you have ever seen. It is all black steel, aluminium, white and bright spaces and exposed concrete. Everyone looks ten times more attractive, stylish and wealthy inside its walls. It is the Wonka factory of cool. Plus their little bathroom toiletries all smell great.
  7. Go into I.T and feel like the clothes you have on are remotely cool.
    It doesn't matter how good the Tuve hotel may have you feeling that, unless you are Kanye, I.T will make you feel as cool as a rotting cucumber left on the vine at a vegetable farm abandoned due to drought-related hardship. I imagine if you are Kanye (Hi Mr West, thanks for reading my stuff) this place would feel like Target. But for the rest of us, this mix of Japanese and Scandinavian designer streetwear is just so damn cool. It feels like security are there to act almost as bouncers, not letting anyone in the shop who doesn't look right, lest they detract from the mannequins.
  8. Expect your request for a flight upgrade will be denied.
    Look we didn't get one, but asking didn't get the same response it gets here in conservative Australia. The flight attendants of the major Hong Kong airline we were flying with genuinely checked and tried to see if an upgrade was available. Unfortunately, the flight was fully booked. In Australia, if you were to ask you'd almost be kicked off the flight and added to a terrorist watch list. It is as if asking is an affront to our notion of a classless society. Hong Kongers seem to think that if a seat is free, someone should be allowed to sit there. My point is; just ask. You never know what you may get. How do you think China got Hong Kong back from Britain?
  9. Think you can work on your screenplay whilst waiting for the train.
    This won't happen. Mostly because the trains are super efficient and arrive every 5 minutes. But, it also has something to do with the fact you can't move beyond page 17 and start the second act.
  10. Try and save money.
    Hong Kong is a super expensive place. Even the ATMs often will cost you more to use than what you take out. Real estate is so expensive in Hong Kong that a friend of a friend has started buying up broom cabinets in apartment complexes as a speculative property investment. Even the land local government rubbish bins sit on is worth more than the median house price in Brisbane. But the food, culture and energy you'll absorb will be worth every one of your Hong Kong dollars.

The H Holiday Part 1 - Vietnam

Quick recap for those that haven't been following my life story in detail. Ten years ago this month, I got married. To celebrate that fact, my wife and I booked the often-spoken-of overseas anniversary trip. We chose Vietnam because of its food culture, a little bit about the proximity to our children who we managed to leave behind at home (not in the Caulkinesque sense) and also because there was a sense of regret around the destination. This wasn't the same sense of regret shared by the American national ego, but more so to do with a trip that was planned just before the surprise pregnancy that delivered us our firstborn. 

So over we went to Vietnam. The word Vietnam translated in the mother tongue means 'Land of Scooters'. The Scooters were the first inhabitants of Vietnam until French explorers landed here sometime well before 1950 when they were looking for a spot to enjoy their bread roll. This delicacy would later become know as Bahn Mi.  Hanoi is the major city of the North and more socialist in their tradition. Today it feels quite consumerist with only small acknowledgments to its communist past, such as a love of concrete, the colour red and the use of images of old guys heads who look like Colonel Sanders from KFC.

We spent our days walking around the streets with the locals. It was a weekend and the lake is the place Hanoians like to gather and undertake such weekend activities as climbing statues to read a book. We also enjoyed watching local kids take over the closed off streets in hired motorised toy cars and race in an impromptu Grand Prix. We managed to catch the London Symphony Orchestra warming up at sound check for a gig they were holding in the park. It was pretty special to come across something like that, but we didn't stay long enough to hear if my shouted request for a rendition of 'Anarchy in the UK' wasn't met.

It seems the Vietnamese spend much of their day thinking about or eating food. It is on the street everywhere, in the literal sense. Where back home we concern ourselves with colour coded chopping boards to separate the meat, from the fish, from the vegetables, the Vietnamese don't care for such devices. Instead, they see the streets as their kitchen and the footpaths their preparation areas. A Health Department Officer would suffer an aneurysm trying to keep track of how many food safety standards get breached in the average lane.

We detoured from our base in Hanoi to head out to the UNESCO World Heritage site of Ha Long Bay. I had been eating at a restaurant by the same name for the past 12 years, so was very excited at the prospect of seeing spring rolls caught in the wild. The bay itself is unlike anything I have ever seen before, outside of pirate movies. It is a series of stunning cliffs and coves entwined within the calmest bay I have ever seen - it is like the water takes Xanax. We spent a night onboard one of the 34,986 boats that were cruising around with their cargos of tourists. A far from ideal way to see such a sight, but at the same time, the only way. Sleeping on a boat was a bit of fun. It allowed me to indulge the fantasy of being a rich white dude who dresses in only navy and tan and gets people to call him 'The Admiral'. By the end of the 24-hour trip, Wifey was getting sick of The Admiral and was keen to get me back on land. Despite throwing off my alter-ego, I know the spirit of The Admiral lives on, waiting for my return the bay.

After another day in Hanoi, we jumped on a plane down to the central coast of Vietnam and the historical city of Hoi An. Hoi An is a beautiful old town full of historical buildings, great food and tourists. Even though we fitted within this category, there was something simultaneously annoying and surprising about this state, like a pimple in your ear canal.  

Hoi An is known for its tailors, so we wasted little time in heading into a store to get fitted for some pieces. I wanted a few replicas of my favourite blazer and wifey went with some Japanese inspired wide leg pants, the sort you could smuggle a newborn in. The tailoring process is a constant battle against the tiny Vietnamese saleswomen dynamos who ABC (always be closing) better than Michael Jackson busking for opioids. We still aren't sure who won that engagement, but we are happy with the products produced.

Two real highlights of Hoi An were the lights at night and the work of Ms Vy. Each night the streets are illuminated by the lanterns that linger in lieu of streetlights. Combined with the historical architecture, they elevate the town above daytime perceptions of being just a giant souvenir shop. 

Ms Vy has three separate restaurant ventures in the town plus one transplant in Melbourne and cookbooks selling like crab cakes, she is the Jamie Oliver of Vietnam. We took one of her cooking classes to celebrate our actual wedding anniversary day. At the end of the class we were gifted a double-knife. We had seen them earlier in the day and fell in love with their slicing and dicing capacity. In a market of fish heads, exotic fruit, livestock carcasses and noodle making octogenarians, they glimmered like crystals of innovation. 

An honourable highlight mention must also go the quirky farmer and his water buffalo who we met riding through the rice fields on the way to the beach. I know we didn't take you up on your offer for a photo with us atop of your beast, but something tells me that on my deathbed, I will regret that decision. From this day forward, I shall ride the buffalo.

What I don't regret is the cash we dropped on cancelling our plans to go back to Hanoi and instead fly straight over to Hong Kong for an extra day or so. More on that next time in Part 2.