The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one): Part 1

It seems that about six years ago I wrote seven ‘shorts’ about a man called Morten Harket who wasn’t the Mortenguy from a-ha.

Morten was not complicated. He was a nice man with a loving wife and all he wanted was to work, pay the bills and try and get through a day without somebody bringing up the fact that he had the same name as the guy from a-ha.

I’m guessing I posted these on the very popular Cold as Stone website back in 2007 as part of their “song of the week” threads. These scenes were written as a mechanism for delivering a “rating” for a particular a-ha song every week. To be honest I had virtually no recollection of writing these – I happened across them when going through some old files.

So without further ado, here is the first part of The Adventures of Morten Harket (not that one)

I’ve Been Losing You

“Good morning! Come in, Mr … ”
“Harket.”
“Mr Harket! Sit down, please.”

The office was large and spacious. The oak desk which seperated Mr Harket from the bespectacled gentleman looked like it would take a small town of Eastern European contract cleaners to keep it gleaming.

“I’m Ron McDonald. It’s lovely to meet you,” the gentleman said politely. “So, it’s Martin, is it?” Ron inquired, removing his spectacles temporarily to admire just how beautiful they were. Which they were.

“No, it’s Morten,” corrected Mr Harket.

“Oh! Like the singer from that Swedish band, Haha?”
“Yes, like the singer from that band…it’s a-ha actually and they’re from Norway.”
“Not Iceland?”
“No.”
“You’re not him though?” the gentleman asked, scrubbing furiously at a blackhead on his cheek.
“No, we just share a name,” smiled Morten Harket politely.

“Right, well, Morten,” he winked, “let’s get down to business. You’re interested in the branch manager job here at the Acme Bank Company.”

“Very much so,” Morten replied, adjusting his tie so that the knot was roughly the size of a large Japanese plum.

“Your CV is very impressive. You left out the bit about you being the singer in a rock band though!” laughed Ron grabbing at a nearby handkerchief for fear his sides would split and cause an unholy mess – intestines and the like.

Morten laughed politely and tried to turn the conversation to his achievements in life. “As you can see I have managed upwards of 30 people in my last job.”

“Was one of them Paul Waaktaar-Savoy?” laughed Ron, slapping his own thigh too hard and wincing slightly.

“Look, Mr McDonald, I’d really rather tell you what I can bring to your company,” Morten said. “I once project managed the installation of a foreign exchange system that processed multip…”

“Did Magne have a logon to that system?” Ron guffawed, the eyeglass in his spectacles cracking from his own sheer hilarity.

“Mr McDonald…” Morten began before Ron cut across him.

“What do you think of that ‘I’ve Been Losing You’ song, eh?” he enquired. God it’s bloody marvellous isn’t it?”

“I don’t know anything about it,” replied Morten, eager to recite the EU exchange rates that he had memorised.

“It’s just so moody and rocky – isn’t it?” Ron continued. “I especially love the lyrics, the desperate begging of lines like ‘please now, talk to me’ and ‘how can i stop now’. It’s such a gritty song but yet melodic too. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Morten stood up. “Mr McDonald, I’m not from that band,” he said sternly, extending his hand to Ron. “I’m beginning to think I wouldn’t be such a good fit here.”

Morten turned and walked out as Ron hummed “helpful…ahhhh” to himself, his eyes closed, his foot tapping.

“10/10,” he murmered. “10/10 for that live performane in Oslo too…”

Morten turned the key in his front door and was met by his expectant wife.

“So…?”

“No joy,” he said, turning his face to the cheap wooden floor that adorned their hallway. He slowly raised his eyes to her again, tears visible behind his lashes. “It was the a-ha curse again.”

“Never mind, love,” she said, embracing him. “Maybe next week you’ll find that perfect job.”

“I have lost my way,” he said to her in a pained voice.

“No,” she smiled warmly. “No, you haven’t.”

And they went, hand in hand, to the bedroom to have some adult time together. 

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Five legends who can freely kick my head in

While watching Katie Taylor batter another peer in to irrelevance this week, even my extreme dislike for patriotism and jingoism was put on hold.  Katie is such a legend that I’d happily let her beat me around the head (maybe not the face directly) with her big gloves while she repeatedly told me that I was a worthless peon.

But, actually, she’s not the only one.  On reflection there are some people out there who are so awesome that they have earned the right to pummel me to within an inch of my life and, not only would I not fight back, I wouldn’t even consider assault and battery charges.

So, I present to you the top five persons – scratch that – top five icons who are welcome to kick the crap out of me if they so wish.

5. Bruce Willis
So cool, that even being completely hairless doesn’t reduce my respect for him. Whether he’s taking smug to a new level in “Hudson Hawk“, goofing about with YMCA moustache in “Mortal Thoughts” or dressed up as the Easter Bunny in “North“, Bruce Willis only ever appears to be one exaggerated cigarette-drag away from punching a Bruno-shaped hole in someone’s head.

The scene of my demise: Willis walks up to me in a busy restaurant, removes cigarette from his mouth and throws it to the floor a split second before he punches me right in the mouth. I fall in a heap. He picks me up by the shirt collar, his wild eyes dancing with a lack of self-control and says “Two words: over easy.” He drops me, picks up his cigarette, puffs on it with an air of self-satisfaction and grabs a scone from a startled onlooker’s plate as he effortlessly pushes the diner door ajar and exits.

He needs no elaborate setup.

4. Hulk Hogan
He might be bald, perma-tanned and a little slow making his way around the wrestling ring now but back in the day the Hulkster was…um…

Okay so not much has changed in twenty-five years for the legendary sports entertainer, bad actor and occasional bass player. But you can’t deny the cultural impact that Terry “Hulk Hogan” Bollea had on small and big kids alike in the eighties and nineties. He put the kibosh on The Iron Sheik, refused to be intimidated by large grunting mandroid Zeus and politely lay down for Sylvester Stallone seeing as how Rocky III was his film and all.

Wrestling might be “fake” but Hogan is 300 pounds, six-foot stupid and has 24 inch pythons. He’d wreck you.

The scene of my demise: Just as Hulk’s former wife Linda is about to succumb to my leery advances, the Immortal One kicks in the front door of his own former family home – pauses to snarl and flex – and stomps (slowly) in my direction. But wait! What’s this!? I’ve anticipated the situation, reach in to my jacket and pull out a small beaker of deadly acid! I throw it in Hulk’s face and he screams as he falls to the ground, writhing, with his hands over his eyes. I immediately leap on top of him and instigate my own three count.

But, at two, Hulk flings me several feet in to the air! He’s on his knees, eyes are wide open in spite of the burning acid and he’s making embellished air-blowing motions through his O-shaped mouth. I climb groggily to my feet and club the Hulkster over the head with my forearm. He no-sells, continuing to blow precious air in my direction. I close-fist him to the forehead but again it has no effect!

He climbs to his feet and circles me while shaking his fists and arms wildly. He’s Hulking Up! I stop him in his tracks with another right hand but he just stares, points, blocks a further punch attempt and knocks me down with one blow. He sees the opportunity to put me away (while I shift my position slightly to allow him to hit his signature move), runs against the nearest ropes (wall) and drops his leg across my throat. My entire body feels the impact as he scrambles over me, hooks my leg and has Linda make the three count. Hulkamania runs wild while my larynx is crushed by his tree-sized limb.

3. Vinnie Jones

When Vincent Peter Jones got a part in 1999 gangster film “Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels” as “Big Chris” no one could have imagined that his movie career would end up surpassing that of his 13 year professional football career.  Sure, he played characters called Bullet Tooth Tony, Sphinx, Killer, Juggernaut and Smasher O’Driscoll.  But he acted alongside Nicolas Cage, John Travolta, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry and Tom Berenger FFS!

The coolest thing about Vincent is that he actually is a fairly ok actor.  That might sound like I’m damning him with faint praise but how many former sports stars make the transition to the big screen and actually entertain?  Ok, you can’t beat this guy and maybe this guy. But Jones manages to be convincing because he really is a psychopath (and I’ve been to the bar – I’m not surprised he got involved).

The scene of my demise:

Oy!”

That’s the only thing you hear before Jones nuts you.  You might even be in a different room at the time.  He’ll still get you.

2. Kathy Bates

She might be in her sixties and happy enough to lend her voice to big screen cartoon characters and appear in lightweight TV movies now.  But once upon a time Kathy Bates was a formidable ass kicker.  If she wasn’t being arrested for chucking an old woman down the stairs or being an unlikely forty-something prostitute, she was a nurse performing impromptu reverse surgery on helpless writer Paul Sheldon.  She has more awards than I have awards and is so successful that she’s never had to lower herself to parodying the Annie Wilkes character. Well, maybe just this one time.

The scene of my demise: After an unexpected whirlwind romance, Kathy and I end up moving in together.  Everything is going well for a few months until she starts to get more and more controlling.

“Come on, Kathy!” I say. “Why are you being such a bitch?”

“Because sometimes being a bitch is all a woman’s got to hold on to,” she replies.

Then she kicks me in the balls and smashes my ankles with a mallet.

1. Liam Neeson

Until recently Liam Neeson was the Scottish guy from “Rob Roy”, the Russian guy from “K-19: The Widowmaker” or the German guy from “Schindler’s List”. After 2008’s “Taken” he became the guy you’d most want to be related to if you were kidnapped by Albanian human traffickers. Delivering a kill rate of “are you kidding me?”, Neeson decimated the broken English-speaking demographic faster than Rosetta Stone could create it.

The scene of my demise: I glance in the direction of the phone as it rings. I have no intention of picking up. I walk towards it. The answer machine kicks in with a simple, generic greeting and a resonating beep. I listen intently.

“I don’t know who you are. I don’t know what you want,” the voice begins.
“Neeson,” I say with a smirk.

“If you’re looking for ransom, I can tell you I don’t have money.”
“Not likely after the success of ‘Taken’ and ‘The Gray’,” I reason.

“But what I do have are a very particular set of…”
“Yeah, yeah. Set of skills. Heard it all before,” I say, mockingly.

“Shut up!,” he shouts as I look around me, bemused. “Now, where was I?”
“Set of skills…?” I reply uneasily.

“Right. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you.”

“I’ve had enough of this.” I lean in close to the machine: “Good luck”.

With that, a fist comes through the answering machine, smashing me in the face and sending me flying on to my back. Neeson, somehow, climbs out of the answering machine (but full size and with a trench coat on) and delivers devastating kicks to my face every time I try to struggle to my feet.

“I’m sorry,” I gasp. “I’m sorry…”
“I believe you,” he says, while standing over my bloodied carcass with his foot raised. “But it’s not gonna save you.”

Passing the American Entrance Exam

"Wibble"

Every time you enter America as a non-immigrant you have to make a series of declarations about your background and your physical and mental well-being so the state feel assured that you are an asset to them and not a mad man of some sort.

Now some of these questions make sense such as whether or not you have TB, or a mental or physical disorder that might endanger others (I presume that if you do then you’re not likely to be allowed in.  Sure, in some cases you might be able to disguise the condition but I suppose if you’re, say, Wolverine then you’d probably be busted once you accidentally claw the lippy immigration officer to death.).

But some of the questions they ask are just downright weird.

Have you, while serving as a government official, been responsible for or directly carried out, at any time, particularly severe violations of religious freedom?

So we will tolerate mild, moderate or even severe violations of religious freedom.  But if they were particularly severe then we, as Americans, would take quite a dim view of that.

Have you attended a public elementary school on student (F) status or a public secondary school after November 30, 1996 without reimbursing the school?

What?  Isn’t that a bit specific?  No interest in whether or not I owe 50k on my Amex card or have failed to pay a mobile phone bill for a year.  No, we want to know if you reneged on paying school fees after that well-known ‘School Fee Amnesty’ of November 30th, 1996.  And does this include library dues?  Because I’m pretty sure I owe about £2.50 in late fees for an economics audio book read by Chris Farley?

Do you belong to a clan or a tribe?

Yes, I do. I live in a jungle, have no shoes, kill fish with spears, and can afford a transatlantic return flight to the United States.

Are you coming to the United States to engage in prostitution or unlawful commercialized vice or have you been engaged in prostitution or procuring prostitutes within the past 10 years?

I assume they are asking me whether or not I am a pimp or a prostitute – not whether I’ve spent fifty quid in De Wallen when trying to impress the lads on a stag weekend?  If that was the case then none of us would get in.

And if you did have nefarious plans up your sleeve you’d be a weak link in your terrorist cell if you answered “yes” to questions like “Do you seek to engage in terrorist activities” or “do you intend to provide financial support to terrorists”.

Top Ten things to say to trick-or-treaters

This is what it's all about
I'm just saying I know where's he coming from.

I hate Halloween.  It was a great excuse for burning stuff and drinking flagons of cider when I was 14 but I have no use for it now.  I’m currently sitting in the back room of my deliberately pitch-dark house in the hope of keeping the usual array of greedy children and their imposing parents away from my door.

But in the event that a group of little brats wearing pointy hats and wrapped in shower curtains start ringing the doorbell, I’ve got a few lines ready that will ensure they don’t call in next year.

 

10. “Hey, don’t stand out there in the cold.  I’ve just downloaded the new Michael Jackson movie.  Come on in!”

9. “Hey, baby. You look good.”

8. “Personally I don’t think you should have any treats. You don’t want to end up a fat ass like your dad here, do you?”

7. “I heard that there are demons in the area that are going to hide under your beds and hack you to death during the night.  Did you guys hear that?”

6. “Sorry but due to the weak sterling exchange rate I have to charge this year.  That’ll be  €11 please.”

5. “Great timing kids.  I’m just back from the supermarket and they had a special offer on purple seeded grapes. ”

4. “Get off my property!  You’re trespassing!”

3. “It’s mad to think that statistically 4 of you will experience your parents divorcing.”

2. “It’s mad to think that statistically 2 of you are gay.”

1. “What are you supposed to be?  Because you look shit.”

My first acupuncturism

After over a year struggling with this bloody Achilles injury and having chalked sports massage, physiotherapy and reiki off the list of possible solutions, I decided to drop in to the herb and acupuncture store* – for yes, we have such a thing – at my local shopping centre.

I’ve never once walked by it in the company of someone who didn’t pass remark “how does that place stay open?”  But having researched online, there was a reasonable percentage of people saying that acupuncture was in fact helpful for tendonitis.

So a pleasant Chinese woman (presumably – the Chinese bit I mean, not the presumption that she was a woman) told me that I could get a free consultation and told me to “take a seat” before adding “not literally!” and laughing hysterically.  No, no – she didn’t say the last bit.

A minute later this young, earnest guy directs a middle-aged, confused looking Chinese man to a curtained-off cubicle next to me and then ushers me in afterwards.  He explains that the other man was the doctor and that he was going to translate for him.  Now the translator bit always throws me.  Ultimately I’m communicating with the person who doesn’t speak my language but I’m directing my information through the conduit of a second human being who gets all my attention during my speaking bit.

So I’m making eye contact with the translator who is then passing on the information to the doctor.  I look to the doctor with a rather gormless pursed-lip grin that I’m sure he could do without and then I’m going back to the translator with raised eyebrows, wondering if in fact the nature of my ailment had been properly communicated.

It’s a tense, critical moment.  Of course, my phone rings.  If it wasn’t bad enough for the wise healer to hear this he then had to endure this as the cancelled-caller left a voicemail.

Thankfully we overcame this hurdle and the doctor said he could improve my condition with some acupuncture and medical massage.  The numbers sounded a bit scary but I figured I’d poured so much money in to other forms of therapy and massage without relief that I’d give it a shot.

I lay on my back and the doctor jabbed a half dozen or so pins in to various parts of my body.  Just over my head was a sketched poster of a naked man that identified the “Acupoints” (a completely made-up word I’m sure) on our bodies.  Sure enough the points highlighted around my ankle/heel were the various points where I felt a little prick (speaking of which, on the poster, because they wanted to highlight acupoints on the inner thigh, they only semi-obscured his organ – and it still looked massive).

Meanwhile, the doctor is looking at me for a reaction as he prods my Achilles and occasionally utters something that sounds like “meh?” but I took to be him asking if there was any pain.  It wasn’t like he was saying the Chinese word for “pain”, I think he was just lacking conviction on the whole English language thing.

The Phrase BookHe sods off for 20 minutes and it was quite a relaxing experience I have to say.  He comes back to me, whips out the pins, says “ok?” and then brings in a barrel of what looks like warm sewage.  He gestures at a chair as if to say “sit on this chair and submerge your foot in to this barrel of ancient Chinese medicine”, looks at me and says “ten minutes”.  I guess they have some sort of phrase book to get them through the day.

This barrel of sewage, or whatever, was bloody lovely.  Oh, sure, there was what felt like a half-eaten Mars Duo at the bottom but that’s ok.  I mean…I’m sure it was just a Mars Duo.

So he comes back in, dries off my foot (after gesturing to me to sit on the edge of the bed again but I have to say it was a bit ambiguous) and then followed up with another gesture to lie down on my back again.  I do so and he gets working on my foot, massaging like a mad man.  It was a bit sore but I suppose that’s the point.

Then – get this – he stands up and says “face down, please”.  Now, hold on a second!  I’m buying in to this whole ancient, mystical Chinese thing because you can’t speak any bloody English!  And here you are practically asking me what I do for a living and if I’ve any plans for the weekend.  What a letdown!  I can only imagine that once I left he kicked his shoes off and put on “The Wire” boxset.

My image of this all-knowing doctor only being a step away from the this guy has been blown out of the water.  But at the same time it was quite an interesting experience so I’ve booked in for a second round.  Plus they gave me some anti-inflammatories and this Chinese massage oil that is so strong it actually rips your skin off and melts your bone.  I’m all about that.

* Mind you, I’m a bit concerned about this.

My first man-ssage

With a string of female sports masseuses having moved on at my gym I was left with the ultimate dilemma today – do I let a boy touch my naked body?

Over the last five years I’d gone through a number of masseuses: a former Olympian badminton player (badmintor?), an Asian girl who asked me every week without fail how (a) my girlfriend was and (b) my cats were, a very pleasant Dubliner with no particular character traits, a hard-ass with a pronounced growl, a very sweet girl who was young enough to be my daughter (if I had known what to do with it at 14) and a lovely but easily flustered Spanish girl who was the first and only one to effect inadvertent ‘towel rise’.

After a three month gap (possibly self-enforced after the above-mentioned rise of the machine incident) I knew I had to re-visit for my ever-worsening Achilles injury.  I checked in today to find that there was no masseuse…it was time for my first masseur.

Ed Kowalczyk - who looks like a masseur I "know"
Ed Kowalczyk - who looks like a masseur I "know"

I don’t have a picture of him (hey, I’m lying almost naked in a room with him – last thing I’m going to do is whip out a camera) but I can assure you that he looked like Ed Kowalczyk, lead singer of Pennsylvania four-piece, Live.  Seriously, spitting image.

So we start off with me lying on my stomach in just boxers shorts, a flimsy towel masking the fact that I shop at Pennys.  Ed (for let us refer to him as such) is working the calf muscle, diligently digging his thumbs in to my … calf muscle.  At this point (back in the days when women did this sort of thing) I’d usually be making small talk – you know, stuff like “how long have you been doing this?  what do you do for fun? do you like strawberry blond rockers with excessive body hair?“.

But today, with Ed working it, I found myself unable to relate.  I had nothing to talk to him about.  Occasionally he would see me wince and utter something like “Is it too hard?” to which I would mentally glance south and almost reply “Nope, sleeping like a baby…” before realising what he was talking about.

The kicker here is that the massage room is actually very romantic.  The lighting is deliberately subtle while the deep-yellow electric fire in the corner emits no heat but hypnotically meshes with the piano-led ambient music that repeats about six times in the hour.  It is supposed to relax you, transport you to an ethereal landscape where there is nothing around you except the sound of nature and a guy with a large selection of Yamaha keyboards.

As we entered the closing minutes of our rendezvous he yanked the towel clear and insisted I lie on my back while he observed how my feet “dangled” off the edge of the massage table.  This was a real test of my mettle.  I mean he’d already said the word “dangle”.

After he observed my something-or-other muscle (in my calf) and told me that I needed to crouch and bend a bit to fix it, we then got in to a slightly longer than anticipated discussion about nutrition and stretching with me sitting in just my pants.  In the days of masseuses there is no way I’d be pants-exposed like that for more than a second or so.  It was the ultimate test…and I passed it.

I now know I am capable of being boy-touched without any adverse reaction.  I am capable of maintaining eye contact with a boy massage person while sitting in just a tight-fitting pair of off-black boxers.  I have learnt much today.

Mind you, I’d still prefer a cracking bird next time.