Twitter is a High School Lunchbreak

Remember when Twitter was fun? When it was just the weirdos and creeps like us who lurked around and made stupid jokes? When we could force trending topics to happen and we weren’t inundated with normal people? When our freak flag could fly high and we weren’t bogged down with boring beige chatter about fucking Idols, the Springboks, soccer (all types) and whatever the goddamn Sunday night movie is on M-Net?

Those were good days. Back when we were chasing ourselves onto social media’s next ‘platform’. It began with MySpace (which is where HEADLINE payoff began) and in those days only level 9 creepsters and artfags had MySpace accounts. This was followed by a quick flirtation with Facebook, which very quickly became mainstreamed and filled with baby photos, inspirational quotes and Bill Gates giving away $5000.

But then Twitter rolled out of its mother’s butt like a perfect shining golden nugget and cracked open to reveal a new world where piss-takers like me were rewarded for brevity and quickness of wit.

But now?

If Twitter used to be smoking sneaky cigarettes behind the bicycle shed, it is now the main field of the school and all the inane, stupid, redundant conversations that take place are now all there and all public. All. The. Time.

– The not-good-at-anything nerds who discuss Rand/Dollar exchange rates they heard on the radio, as if this makes them knowledgable or intelligent.

– The sportbois, bellowing nonsensically about how the red team is better than the blue team and whoever hasn’t supported the red team for at least the last 5 years is nothing but a glory boy.

– The Christians, having Good Old Fashioned Fun™ while proclaiming ‘Oh my gosh!’ and ‘Sherbert!’ all the time, whipping each other with wet towels and wondering what that strange feeling is.

– The Interact club, touching tree stumps like the fairies from Fern Gully and asking, ‘Can’t you feel it’s pain?’ while suckling orphans at their hairy teats.

– The cool dudes, comparing Island Style shoes, Blackjacks and Instinct T Shirts (or is that Birkenstocks, straw fedoras and French wine barrel cheeseboards?)

– The drinkers, wooing about their weekend and talking about how fucked they were. ‘Bra, I was sooooo wasted oh my god. You shoulda seen me bra!’

– The ‘Come on you guys!’ guys who turn around and shush the class when the teacher gets testy, lurking in the library.

– And then there’s me, standing on the roof thinking about throwing myself off, fingernails digging into my palms as my whole body vibrates with hate.

– But don’t forget Twitter’s sponsored tweets advertising model, which is akin to the retard kid who eats food off the floor for R5, running across the field naked with a banner saying: BUY A NEW MERCEDES AMG.

So here we are, at a never-ending school lunch break. And it is boring. We are awash in waves of beige tedium. It laps at our chins and threatens to fill our mouths and noses as we bob in the cold conversation-porridge like boring, boring, boring hotdog rolls. I am a hotdog roll and so are you. A dried out, stale boring-ass hotdog roll.

Yours tweeting about what he’s eating for lunch,

@headlinepayoff

The HEADLINE payoff Pledge.

I, Paul White, (also known as HEADLINE payoff, that guy with the beard, the dude with the nice jeans and Jesus Christ how long does it even take him to do his hair in the morning (not as long as you’d think, you unoriginal-question-asking-fucks)) do solemnly swear to provide you with nothing but grade A, butt-grabbing, tongue-kissing, nipple-tweaking writing. No blogging, no cat pictures, no gifs, no memes, no ‘content’, just loads and loads of beautiful text – written by none other than the man whose fingers are tinkling the black plastickies right now.

 

When people write blogs they like to write about what they are going to do or think they are going to do. They also tend to write blogs about how sorry they are for not blogging. I think that’s a bunch of shit. I’ve barely used this website in the last year or two and that’s because I was busy. And I’m sure you care less than I do about whether I’ve been writing or not. So the good news is, dear reader, even you with the crabclaws is: I’m not a blogger. The only blogger’s event I’ve ever been to I helped organise and while I think it went pretty well, I left early. In fact, my dislike of doing things in general precludes me outright from being a blogger. Also I’m not a mother/foodie/new runner/lifestyle single/rich kid being bankrolled by their parents/fashionista who expects you to be excited because I can dress myself in the morning/streetstyle photographer/whinging BA student trying to find themselves. I’m just some cunt with a computer.

I won’t be asking you for feedback on my new header that some designer friend shat out. I won’t be begging you to vote for me in competitions where the only winners are social media marketers, desperately trying to prove their worth by mentioning some idiot called ROI. I won’t be posting recipes, unless they are to summon demons out of your or someone else’s ass. I won’t be living, laughing or loving. I won’t be following my bliss. I won’t be finding myself. And I most certainly will not be living my #bestlife.

What I will be doing, however, is writing.

So grab your friend, grab yourself but just do not grab me because I don’t like being touched. We’re about to go on a journey through time and space together. It may not be pretty, we may learn things about each other we didn’t want to know, we may puke our pants or even puke someone else’s, but we will most certainly not be blogging.

And if I ever post a single gif, let alone an entire steaming turd of an article filled with them, you have my full permission to burn down this website and come find me and tell me what a bad man I am.

 

Yours yoursly,

PW

On New York

People think they should go to New York. It’s something that should be on your bucket list (like ‘skydiving’ or ‘saying yes more’ or ‘eating more salad’). This is of course, without talking about the concept of bucket lists as a purely bourgeois way of thinking (There are things you need to do before you die, other than struggle to stay alive? Fuck me!).

You just know you should go. It’s something that has to be on your list as a ‘travelled’ person, and of course – who doesn’t want to be a travelled person? We all know that the only way to live our best lives is to travel a lot (for the instagram opportunities), not eat carbs (except for the instagram opportunities) and take pictures of our lives to prove we are living our best lives (on instagram).

As an aside, it’s difficult enough for me to speak about my own experiences here as I cannot stand the way social media forces us to live a public life. I didn’t go to New York because I wanted to rub it in anyone’s face, or to prove I had the money to go, or for whatever reason people think they should. I largely went because my girlfriend really wanted to.

Russell Brand made a good point about travel as a (non) form of therapy: No matter where you go, you’ll still be yourself. If you’re sending mind daggers to those motherfucking hippies across the road and their disgusting haircuts or if you’re in India (word is that you can find yourself there) – you’re still going to be a cynical, frustrated, hairy guy who was born without an excitement gland; at least in my case.

Did I find myself in New York? No.

Did I have a New York moment? (Whatever the fuck that really is) No.

Did I discover new ways of thinking? No.

Did I come away with a lust for life? A need to just grab life by the pigtails and go at it? (I like pigtails) Nope.

I don’t believe that travelling somehow makes you a better person, or that it opens your eyes (to just what exactly?). I went away for nearly 3 weeks, spent a shitload of money and I still hate the hippies across the road and their ugly unwashed hair. I still want to cry when the dogs bark too much in the car and I haven’t suddenly come to a friendly truce with peas – those little green cunts.

So what made it so amazing then? Because let’s be honest – millions of people living on top of each other, all on each other’s shoulders trying to see further than the next guy is not particularly inspiring. And tall buildings are… tall. The hot dogs are … mystery meat in a bun. The people are … not as rude and endearing as you’d expect; they’re kind of just busy. The subways are … confusing at first, but not in a romantic ‘oh my god we just ended up at the most ROMANTIC Italian restaurant with only half a table and a chef who literally makes the parmesan in his own armpits’ kind of way, more like in a ‘for fuck’s sake we got on the express and now we’re 10 stops too far, goddamnit’ kind of way.

What I sought out in New York was art. And I found it. I saw Van Gogh’s Starry Night and it hit me right in the gut. I felt ill. I saw my first (two) Frida Kahlos, I saw Goya, Jasper Johns, Jackson Pollock, Dali, Warhol, more Van Goghs, Cezanne, Toulouse-Lautrec, Koons, Edward Hopper, Georgia O’Keeffe, Monet, Manet, Turner and Gauguin.

What we hope to achieve, when we create things is a connection; an assertion of our vitality, proof we exist. I was here and I made this. Do you see it? A long dead man who painted two Tahitian women could never have known what that image would mean to me. That these two women, painted more than 100 years ago would be present in the room where I first fell in love. This is the power of art.

I have stood in rooms filled with the very best humanity has to offer. I have communicated with all these people and felt what they were saying. To me and to all of us. This is the power of art.

What made New York great? The possibility. Not the bullshit financial opportunities – like some reimagined jungle from Death of a Salesman. Rather, it was the feeling that things are achievable. There’s a place where there’s space for audacious projects, a place where people will queue to see Girl With A Pearl Earring – because it’s important. The point is, this place doesn’t need to be New York – it can be anywhere. That’s what’s amazing about New York.

Now go look at some art.

 

 

We Were Good Then

My grandfather gave me one of his favourite rings a few days ago, something which has meant a lot to him over the years. I remember it from my childhood, a tiger’s eye with lateral striations in the stone, set in thin bent gold. It was a permanent fixture on his finger, much like his big silver belt buckle was around his expanding, and now shrinking, waist.

At this family gathering, my grandfather called us aside and with tears in his failing eyes told the three of us that this would be the last time he would ever see his three grandsons in one room again. One of my cousins was down from the UK. With shaking, gnarled fingers he pulled out three rings. He said he would have liked to leave them to us in his will, but when this opportunity presented itself he took the chance. One square onyx, an oval tiger’s eye and a tiny diamond, set in a chunky square ring.

We thanked him awkwardly, my mother’s parents were always ones for grand gestures. Indeed, even fast food experiences with them could be momentous. It’s not often you remember ‘a pizza’ or ‘a steak roll’ and yet at my grandfather’s hand and wallet they have become touchstones for me. My grandfather, a salesman of office furniture by trade and a keen member of the army (how could I forget how dapper he looked in his beret?) was always more of a dreamer. And while he remembers how big the first calculators were (half the size of a desk) and how expensive they were (very), often he prefers to speak of time or space travel. For him, and consequently for me, buying a Hero Steak Roll from the Steers in Gabriel Road, Plumstead for his grandsons was an Event – something to be marked. I remember the rain outside and the immense pride as he clucked over us – his young men. It was the best steak roll I have ever eaten.

And then we shuffled off; the ceremony finished. How do you thank a man for something so meaningful? There’s nothing you can say, not much you can do. My plan is to grill him about the object itself. To try uncover what it means to him – why I was given the tiger’s eye and not the onyx or diamond. Where does it come from? How did he get it? What did he live through while wearing it?

The birth of his first and second grandsons?

The difficult birth of his first granddaughter and the passing of her twin, just a few days after her birth?

My own birth?

My aunt’s divorce?

My uncle’s divorce?

My sister’s birth?

My mother’s illness (and recovery)?

My cousin’s illness (and recovery)?

The gutting of their house, by fire?

The death of their son?

The bolt-from-the-blue divorce that destroyed my own family?

Each shimmering striation in the stone tells a story. And honestly, how do you tie up a life in something as small as a ring? Each of these striations saw us as red-faced children, running through the night garden, fingers burnt by the hot metal of the sparklers and soothed by the cold stickiness of watermelon wedges, destined to become volleys of seeds as we waged war on each other. I spoke about these days, when we were a family, with my cousins (more memories of photographs for me than real memories) and I was touched that they were remembered fondly. We were young and so were our parents. We were all new and uncompromised.

Later, my grandmother handed me a photo – a frozen moment from one of those days, before my sister was even born. My older cousins were arm in arm; so vital, life quivering in their face-wide smiles as I  curled up on myself and tried to hide from the camera, offset and to their left, the bright green garden all around us.

I handed the photo back to her and heard the familiar clack of her bangles, waved in the air for every hello and goodbye, every fierce hug balanced over her tottery legs.

‘We were good then, weren’t we?’ she said.

‘We were.’ I conceded.

But those days are gone. People are dead and others as good as – never spoken to or of again, the weight of our own embarrassment pushing our tongues deep into the wet wells of our mouths. We are old and used, shopworn. There is no going back.

And yet now I have this ring, staring at me from the shelf; a circle of gold with a tiger’s eye winking at me every time I shift perspective.

We were good then.

The Problem with Bucket Lists

When you are a child, you have no real concept of death. Life is one long, sunny afternoon spent with your mother. You don’t understand that things end. That all the things you hold dear will be taken away from you, not because of any malevolent force but because of one of the most basic qualities of our universe – entropy. The tendency for things to fall apart, to become less complex. It started with the big bang, and a piece of that big bang was seeded in you when your parents had their big bang. But you don’t know it yet.

You first see it when your family dog gets grey around the muzzle. As her back hips become weak and her back starts to crumble. She gets thin and when you try to play with her, she snaps at you. You don’t understand and you cry. Your best friend is fearful and in pain. Your mother will tell you it’s because she is old, but soon she will stop eating all together. Depending on your parents and on your constitution, you will either take the last ride with your dog; stroking her head as she stares up at you with dull, silver eyes, or you won’t. You will stay in your room and she will never come back. But you don’t really know where she’s gone.

“To Heaven.” (Doggie or otherwise).

We still don’t really understand it. We still can’t really comprehend the nothingness. Millions and millions of years of evolution have shaped us to do nothing but seek out sensations. We want to see new things, we want to feel new textures (emotional or physical), we want to taste, we want to hear, we want to drink it all in. We want to gorge ourselves on the sensory overload that is the world and roll around in it. It is in our very DNA. The first cell that could sense food and predators around it had an advantage over the cell next to it that couldn’t. The first multi-celled organism that could distinguish between light and dark had one over the multi-celled organism that couldn’t. And so it grew, in ever-expanding complexity, until we found ourselves here today; taking too many drugs, drinking too much booze, eating too much food, doing our best to have sex with as many people as we can (no matter how demeaning), meditating until we can touch the void, looking for existential feelings outside ourselves with more religions than you can shake a stick at (religions don’t do carrots, remember?) and still – what are we doing but obeying our circuitry?

We live because we live. Because we cannot and will not know anything else. We cannot know what it means to be dead. No matter how much our fragile ego protests, kicks and screams; it does not will any god, energy or afterlife into being. Wouldn’t there have been some evidence by now, other than some mangy old books that make less sense than the Twilight novels?

And so? Where to from here? How are we to make sense of our fleeting time on this planet, with all its terrifying beauty and beautiful terror?

We create lists of things we feel we should do before we die. So that when we are the hunched dog in the back of the car, reeking of piss and grey in the muzzle, we can think to ourselves: I led a life worth living. I jumped out of a plane when I was 28! I went bungee jumping! I had a meaningful date tattooed on my ankle! I said yes more often! I went to the gym (at least) twice a week! I ate more veggies! I phoned my mom more! I went for walks in the forest! I went to movies on my own! I finally went to Paris! I made up with my father! (Not likely – he’s a cunt) I drove a Ferrari! I learnt to talk to strangers! I had that extra glass of wine! I took the time to smell the roses! I learnt a new language! I went to pottery classes! I learned how to make sushi! I took up painting! I learnt carpentry!

As the car jolts over the potholes and the smell of the vet’s rooms come closer, as his cold rubber hands reach for your neck to hold you down, is this what you have to offer?

What about people like me? People who haven’t got bucket lists? Have we led good lives? Have our lives been ‘worth living’? Have we missed out on some ‘awesome’ party involving bacon, memes and American Idol? And what if you haven’t managed to tick things off this bucket list of yours? The greatest marketing ploy of all time – seeding the idea that your life is somehow lacking unless you have performed a number of rote, generic tasks somehow deemed by consensus to convey meaning to your life, all rolled up into a movie.

I say fuck jumping out of planes. Fuck getting meaningful dates tattooed on your body. Fuck strangers and fuck foreign languages.

If the quality of your life is defined by a list of things you feel compelled to do because of the worldwide cult of positivity, then something is going wrong. What happens if you fail to complete your aforementioned tasks? What if you have been unable to dance in the rain with gay abandon or backpack across Europe with nothing but a toothbrush and a sexually transmitted disease? If you don’t finish the list you’re a fucking failure.

I am afraid of dying. I am terrified. But when the vet comes for me and parts the scraggly fur on the back of my neck, I’m not going to roll over and say: Hit me buddy – I saw the Great Wall of China. I’m going to turn around and bite his fucking hand, because that’s what being alive is.

PW

Being a fancyman isn’t easy

Despite having shoulders much wider than they need to be and legs that are great for pulling carts, I find myself feeling decidedly unmanly. This is difficult growing up in a country like South Africa, where the ability to use a drill is considered paramount to your future success.

This situation in which I find myself is due to a number of factors. I was a bookish child, I don’t really believe in manly competition and I had an absent father who really didn’t impart much upon me, other than how to alienate yourself emotionally.

My reluctance to engage in manly endeavours has seen me land in a number of embarrassing situations and while I know I could figure these things out (there’s a reason those who aren’t big on intellectual stimulation go into jobs that involve drilling holes) I just couldn’t really be bothered. When there’s post modernism to think about and 60s and 70s counter-culture comix to read, why should I concern myself with such temporal fripperies?

I’ve been considered gay very many times, by a number of people. And I’m sure I am in an alternate universe, it’s just that in this universe I don’t really like dicks that much. The worst aspersions cast on my sexuality came at the hand of a female mechanic. With forearms as big as mine and somewhat hairier, and her hair in a rather Germanic plait – she straight out asked me if I was gay. There are some interesting gender politics for you.

I’ve had old men accuse me of not knowing what I’m doing in hardware stores, simply because I was wearing a lavender shirt. (To be honest, I have no fucking clue – because why should I?) And all of this is really quite embarrassing for me. As someone who was born embarrassed and spent the last twenty-seven years of his life in various shades of self-loathing and red-faced self-consciousness this is really quite difficult. And honestly, I hate hardware stores. Bookshops, art-supply stores – there is where my artfaggery truly comes to the fore.

So where to from here? How do I truly integrate into this macho society of ours? It begins with blagging your way through conversations about soccer and other sports (roundy kickball, if you are unfamiliar with the term). The easiest trick to hide the fact that you know nothing is to ask a lot of questions. This makes you seem Interested. And as we know, most people prefer talking than listening, which allows you to get to more interesting conversational topics like: What are your opinions of Viennese Actionism?

So the next time you have to hang a picture or build some sort of stupid thing, think of me – as my manhood slowly erodes in the eyes of others until I’m some sort of hairy ladyman.

Yours stroking his chin,

PW