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Guy Montgomery

On Months and Pumpkins

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You will notice this newsletter is later than the proposed Tuesday deadline and I have noticed that too, today is Thursday. When you look at your daily calendar though, if you scrunch your eyes up while looking at the word ‘Thursday’ it kind of looks similar enough to Tuesday, doesn’t it? They both start with a beautiful, lumbering capital ’T’ and end in the predictable formation of ‘d – a – y’ and whatever goes on between a ’T’ and a ‘day’ isn’t really any of our business. This newsletter was meant to address the relationship between North American’s and pumpkins but sort of lost its way in the middle and become about months instead. I would describe it as a real mess, I hope you enjoy it.

The Newsletter

Exactly as I’ve been (privately) predicting through late August and most of September, we have arrived in October. Those closest to me will be able to verify my first public suspicions taking place as early as late July. With each passing year I study the calendar a little closer and grow more confident in my monthly forecasts. Even now (the 6th of October as I write) I am quite comfortable going on the record as saying November will be next. I’ve gamed the system to realise it almost runs like clockwork. Ageing has its perks.

I, for one, am pleased to be in October. On its own I’ve never found October to be anything special but when you slot it in (as usually happens) right after September it comes out looking like the people’s champion. September is a right little flirt. Every year it rolls around with the tantalising prospect of spring, exposed legs and the first swim of the season, enough to make even the staunchest winter enthusiast weak at the knees. But the promise and excitement soon fades as you remember why you and September only ever hang out for thirty days on the year. September is a pathological liar who promises everything and delivers nothing. For every morning September promises vistas of lambs orgasming daffodils it delivers a swallow drowning in a very deep gutter puddle.

We needn’t linger on that now though, for here we are in October. The transition to October signals many things to many people. For me, a long isolated period wherein I will start workshopping predictions for the names of months and dates of years to follow. For others, perhaps a birthday, a big work presentation, or a pair of shorts you haven’t felt on flesh since April. North American folk strap on a pair of trousers and grab the nearest pumpkin. October is pumpkin time and the North American people treat their pumpkins different from how we do things down here in Godzone.

What we like to do with our pumpkins down here is fairly standard behaviour. We buy the pumpkin, we peel the pumpkin and we roast the pumpkin. Some of us boil it into a soup, some friends of mine have even experimented with pumpkin in a frying pan. All pretty bog standard pumpkin behaviour. In North America however, things around this time of year are very different. It somehow slips all of their collective minds that pumpkin is predominantly an eating food. An entire continent of people who spend the rest of the year fully aware of the nutritional value of the pumpkin, collectively forget it’s primary purpose and start decorating with it. The reason for this, I imagine, is once they notice the flowers starting to die and the leaves start to fall from the trees, mass hysteria sets in and they start decorating with whatever is handy. They have even invented an entire holiday called ‘Halloween’ to try and disguise this continent-wide eccentricity. And where do you think they buy these decorative pumpkins? Because I’ll give you a clue, it isn’t a speciality decorative pumpkin shop, no sir. It isn’t a store that exclusively sells pumpkins for decorating. You buy your decorating pumpkins the same place you buy your eating pumpkins, the supermarket.

Pumpkin, to me, has always been an eating food. Not raw, don’t treat a pumpkin like an apple, that would be both a dental and ergonomic challenge. If you are set on eating a pumpkin, which it sounds like you are, there are many ways to go about it (please refer to earlier passages of the newsletter for tips). And in defence of North America, not everyone becomes obsessed with decorative pumpkins at this time of year. A different faction of these people like to use at as a ’spice’ for a latte. Grinding a pumpkin down to spice is a ludicrous amount of trouble to go to for a bit of flavour. Just use cinnamon or a more readily available and ground spice. Pumpkin isn’t even recognised as a spice. Not by the Board of Spices, not by Julia Childs and not even by my dear mother Charlotte. They all file it under ‘vegetable’. In addition to this, grinding a pumpkin down to spice is not a fun job, it is tough and laborious work. In saying that, it is the backbone of the economy through the midwest of America right now so pumpkin grinding is good in that regard. I am all for bringing jobs to the midwest and hope to run for mayor of Texas one day on that slogan alone. I imagine that it will do as well as I have done at being Mayor of the Newsletter this week (not good).

The Second Email (Hopefully Brought to you by MailChimp)

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So I’m sorry this email arrived in the night time but that’s just how things go sometimes, emails arrive at night. Not just this email either, all sorts of emails roll in during moonlight hours. While you are sleeping, the small town of Inbox keeps on churning. An army of tiny little men and women carry in every new email on their shoulders and gently place it at the top of Inbox, sitting above all of the other emails. The men and women of Inbox are building a sky scraper, every email an extra floor. Once the email has been opened, that floor of the skyscraper is built and they move on to the next one. Some people have no respect for the people of Inbox and demolish their skyscraper at every turn, I try not to associate with such monsters. This is not an email about emails though, it is only my second newsletter and such a meta concept will have to wait for another day.

This is what the email is actually about (insofar as it is about anything)

My friend was trying to tell me about what he does a few days ago. In fairness he wasn’t trying, he was doing a very good job. He was explaining, with just the right amount of detail; the basic concept of what he was studying, the specifics of his field of research and how he plans on applying those skills. A detailed and accurate breakdown of what was going on. The guy was turning on an A+ conversational display and to my credit, I was doing a fantastic job in my role as supporting conversationalist; asking the appropriate questions, making the appropriate noises, nodding at the appropriate times. In hindsight, it was a perfect conversation, the back and forth was peppered with snappy jokes and cutting anecdotes, people were looking up from their newspapers to admire the masterclass that was taking place. A lady, couldn’t have been a day under ninety, was walking her dog, she stopped in her tracks, turned her head skyward and shouted “This is what I’ve been waiting to hear my entire life!” before collapsing on the spot. We would’ve stopped to check if she was alright but the conversation was just that engrossing. The conversation continued running smoothly until it was rudely overrun by the deafening sirens of emergency services vehicles. We both yelled, in perfect unison (such was the chemistry at this point) “WE GET IT, YOU DEAL WITH EMERGENCIES BUT YOU DON’T NEED TO KEEP GOING ON ABOUT IT. SOME OF US ARE HAVING A CONVERSATION OVER HERE” but beneath the general hysteria our point was wasted.

What stuck with me most about this moment wasn’t the rudeness of the lady or the paramedics, but what a fine job my friend had done in discussing his career. Most people do not do a very good job at this, largely because a lot of us have the wrong idea that what we do is interesting.

I find it very difficult telling people I am comedian. It feels like offering a a pick-a-path to a very dreary conversation. The options being:

PERSON: What do you do?
ME: I am a comedian.
PERSON: Tell me your best joke.
OR
PERSON: I hope you’re not going to put this conversation in one of your skits
OR
PERSON: Well you haven’t said anything funny yet. (Don’t worry, kind reader, they are just ribbing me.)
OR
PERSON: What’s your name? Maybe I’ve heard of you.
OR
PERSON: Whoa buzzy! How do you make most of your money?

The alternative to this, discussing what they do, isn’t necessarily any better. They will usually start by saying something which doesn’t make a lot of sense like they are a ‘family protection consultant’ which means they sell insurance on the phone. They won’t let the fact they sell insurance on the phone stop ‘em from talking though, that’s what I don’t understand. People talk with such passion about how boring their jobs are, without realising that being passionate about how boring your job is unspeakably boring. Some people, mostly in marketing, will be bleating on and on about how they have to write an email, from scratch, and then punch in the lucky recipients address, fire that thing through, wait for the recipient to read it, pen their own email, send that back, read THAT and the whole fucking process starts all over again.

Not helping matters is my approach to these conversations. I have been burned before and because I am not a risk taker (that is an interesting fact about me, I have never taken a risk) I now treat every career based conversation with acute suspicion. This inevitably leads to me getting mentally muddled between those who can do a good job of talking about their job, and those who cannot. The whole thing becomes one jumbled, disinteresting mess and as soon as the conversation finishes, the details of what exactly the person does erode and I wind up thinking every person I know does a caricature of what a job is. I am 27 years old and have no idea what virtually any job title actually means. Are you a Doctor? Your career does not extend beyond calling people into your office. I do not know what happens once they are in there, and I do not care to find out.  Are you the police? That means you turn a siren on and off and eat McDonald’s in your car. Are you a hatmaker? Well as far as I know, you make hats for a living.

Maybe we should all be ushered into small villages with people who exclusively perform the same job as us, so as not to bore the other professions. The comedians can live amongst comedians, the plumbers with the plumbers, the doctors with the doctors and so on and so forth. The only problem with that would be that everyone except the doctors would get very sick and the doctors would get sick of being around each other and become cannibals and all of society would grind to a halt. Well, I guess nothings perfect.

See you next week!

Man On Plane On Hands

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I was lucky enough to fly on an aeroplane recently which I think is one of life’s little treats. It is otherwise very difficult to get up that high, in fact I would argue virtually impossible. If you aren’t flying, you aren’t 45,000 feet in the air, that’s what I’ve always said.
I like to take my own water bottle onto the plane. I could pretend this is an ethical stance because bottled water is terrible for the environment and while that is part of how it started it is hardly the case. My girlfriend bought me the bottle and the bottle keeps the water cold – it is a thermos but the clever marketing team realised only campers and mothers are brave enough to buy a thermos so they gave it a new name. A lot of the time I wind up buying a bottle of carbonated water and pouring it into my water bottle which isn’t just counter-intuitive but an aggressive and bizarre waste of time. If I saw someone doing that in an airport I would report the suspicious activity to the Aviation Authorities and deliberately miss my flight.

I digress (deliberately for comic effect). I had a very good time on the flight, I watched the Martian which seems to be available on every flight provided by every airline and having seen the film I can understand why. SPOILER ALERT: It is a good film! I thought it was funny and very engaging and when Matt Damon gets back on the space ship at the end I cried about nine tears. The toll of crying on my body was such that soon after I found myself fast asleep. I am ordinarily a very good sleeper but something about aeroplanes brings out the best in me. It is a strength. Can you sleep on a plane? If the answer is no I am sorry for bringing it up. This is is not a good topic of conversation for us because I am very good at sleeping on a plane. You could try telling me about how you can’t sleep on planes but if the conversation is taking place on a plane, their is a very high chance I will never get to hear what you are talking about because I will be asleep.

As it happens, I wound up in a sleeping position I call ‘man on hands’ which is a position where I sit on both of my hands (the clue is in the title). Uncomfortable, unorthodox and ungainly are all words that could accurately describe the ‘man on hands’ sleeping phenomenon. I use the word ‘could’ here because as yet, the ‘man on hands’ technique is by no metric a phenomenon. I am the only person to have tried it and for good reason. After waking up from my Slumber at AltitudeTM the only sensation I could feel was thirst. An arid thirst that would befit a man who has been sleeping on his hands for three hours. Lucky for me (see above), I always plan for dehydration when flying and I could see my trusty water bottle in the seat pocket in front of me. I went to move my right hand towards it. The right hand remained motionless on my lap. I tried to grab with the left. The left hand remained motionless on my lap. I swivelled my neck to see if anyone had noticed my behaviour. The man next to me hadn’t just noticed, he was leaning in with a keen interest. My brow was beading up, panic setting in, if I can’t grab this water bottle the man will know I’m vulnerable. Vulnerable to a robbery, a terrorist attack, or any number of other unimaginable things. Maybe he will ask what I do for a living in the hopes that I will then ask him what HE does for a living and then I will have to pretend to be interested in whatever he does for a living!

One of my favourite things to do as a boy would be accidentally falling asleep with my arm under my pillow, before waking up in a fearful frenzy that my arm was preparing to separate from the rest of my body. My only means of maintaining the status quo was exerting what little control I still had over the unwieldy limb and swinging it, full force, into the wall against my bed. I credit this fast thinking approach as a big part of the reason why I still have two arms on my person to this day.

I cocked an eyebrow before swivelling my neck back to the water bottle and centring all of my energy in my right hand. The hand lifted from the leg and made it all the way to the water bottle! The fingers curl around the bottle! The hand moves up! The water bottle remains still! The fingers lower once more! I am, by all accounts, stroking my water bottle! The fingers tighten! The water bottle is moving! The water bottle is out of the seat pocket! The water bottle is inching its way towards my lap! The water bottle is resting in my lap! Under the watchful eye of my traveling companion all I had to do now was open the bottle, lift it to my lips and relieve my thirst. I stabilised the bottle with my left hand, put my right hand atop the large nozzle and braced myself. Nothing happened. With all of my might I tried to turn the bottle in two directions using my two hands but I instead looked like a man having a tug of war with himself. I turned my traveling companion to say something re-assuring “Don’t worry, I just have two dead hands”. What came out instead was a cloud of dust followed by a string of vowels intermittently punctuated with a d sound.

Aaaaaaanyway, I did get to drink the sweet nectar of the water bottle because as you well know, dead hands fade, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever. What an important and valuable dispatch. Tune in next week to hear about my difficulties with staying awake on a submarine.