November 7, 2011

NZ super 8

September 30, 2011

milking barn

I spent a few days pressure washing this old milking barn clean. The sun came down through the holes in the ceiling.



September 15, 2011


I found a bunch of old stuff in a barn in Petaluma.




August 31, 2011


Dan, makin' like a freight train, Petaluma

August 29, 2011

new york, new york


July 15, 2011

Mt. Difficulty

Orchard in the Fog, New Zealand, May 2011

beer o'clock, New Zealand, May 2011

June 21, 2011


I'd overslept. Quickly I packed my things and threw them into the car and drove along the coast and into the tall bush and over the rolling hills and into the farm towns and through the suburbs to the city of Hamilton. Initially I'd hired the car for a week's time. The plan was to drive it south along the west coast back to Wellington. This would take several days and cost a few hundred dollars. Here I was two days later, dropping it off only an hour's drive from where I'd first picked it up in Auckland.
The guy at the rental car place gave me a ride to the train station where I hopped the train all the way back to Wellington.
The train ride was much the same as before, but I did not have the nice woman beside me, nor did the mist coat the mountains. I read and slept and ate. And for a while I hated on myself so hard.
If one were to look at a map and see the path I'd taken, where I'd gone and what I'd done, they'd be baffled. I was moving from one town to the next, covering so much land and passing by so much in between, and stopping only long enough for a beer or two. I felt like I was making a mess of this journey of mine, that I was throwing away money, that I wasn't trying hard enough, that I was fucking failing.

But at the end of the train ride all those feelings went away. I arrived in Wellington and collected my things. With my big duffel bag on my back and a smaller backpack on my chest, instead of getting a cab I hoofed it into town. The wind was really whipping, and my back was aching, but the evening sky was beautiful. I didn't know where I was, or what I was doing, or where I was going, and I didn't give a shit.
I was doing it the right way, I told myself. I was doing it my way. I had no ties and I was embracing that. I was taking in the atmosphere and appreciating the landscape and enjoying the food & drink and avoiding the tourists.
That night at a bar alone, in my little black book I wrote:
"This evening in Wellington I get drunk and extremely positive. God Bless this World."


I woke up scratching at my legs. This was the day I learned of New Zealand's sand flies. You can't see them, but boy can you feel them. I'd been bitten the day before as I sat on the beach, and I'd scratch at those bites for the next few weeks, an itch that meets pain.
I grabbed a few things and I set out for the surf shop. Thirty minutes later I was suiting up at the beach. I jumped into the surf afloat on a nine foot board.
The surf wasn't very impressive compared to the day before. And I'm not much of a surfer in the first place. The waves were few and far between and I was fighting for one in a group of twenty. Really, I was just trying to keep from killing anyone. A nine foot board easily gets swept up in the white wash, and from time to time I found myself tumbling underwater attached to a big bludgeoning device, hoping to God that it wasn't beating the shit out of anyone. Eventually I'd pop up and check my surroundings for injured surfers. Everyone was O.K. A few looked frightened.
In two hours I'd snagged a few waves, three maybe, and while they weren't much, one of them got me high. It was breaking to the left. I popped up to my feet, tucked and held onto the rail of my board with my right hand. As I glided along the wave's face I smiled and hollered in joy, and a guy paddling out saw my stoke and it got him stoked out too.
When I climbed out of the sea my upper body had really had it. My arms and chest were drained of energy, and a cracked ribbed from the past sticks out at an angle, and it had really been working at the skin between it and my board. But I was so happy, just happy to be coated in a thin layer of sand and salt, my lips tasty, my hair malleable.
I spent the rest of my day roaming. I ate. I had coffee. I had beer. I went to the waterfront and crossed a bridge to the peninsula where I examined the skatepark. It looked like fun. On my way back over the bridge I encouraged a small, red-haired boy to jump from it into the water below. It took some convincing but eventually he made the leap.

Raglan is a beautiful place, but going it alone has it's challenges. Relaxing alone has a lot in common with being bored alone. So when I returned to Solscape I told the woman at the front desk that I'd only be staying one more night, that I'd like to be refunded for my third night, that it was just too quiet out at the tipis. She offered to move me to a bed in a boxcar, but I politely declined. While I didn't want to be bored alone, I guess I also didn't want to relax with others.
That evening I found myself, once again, sitting on a hillside pounding beers. After a couple I gave myself a stern talking-to and I walked to the boxcar camp where I did my best at mingling. In a letter to friends I described the crowd as "a bunch of gnar surfer jocks." They weren't really that though. They were just young and uninhibited and killing it, and while I too am young I'm not as young as them, and I find that with age I've lost some of my ability to flow so easily and seamlessly into a group of total strangers. I felt like I was sitting on the edge and peering in.

I made some conversation though. I talked with a guy from Oregon, and a guy from San Diego, and a googly-eyed German girl, and it was alright. But in the end I raced to finish the sixth beer.

I'd made the evening walk to the boxcars without a flashlight, and then I had to make the night walk back to the tipis in the dark. I thought it would be easy, but it was not. Carefully I placed one foot in front of the next as I descended into the ravine, and the ferns brushed me in the face whenever I got off course. And I heard the trickling of the spring and felt the squish of the swamp and I moved so slow I hardly moved at all. I found myself wondering:
Where am I?
What am I doing?
Where am I going?

May 21, 2011


A lady at a bar in San Francisco had told me that if I was going to New Zealand and was wanting to do some surfing that I had to check out Raglan. Indeed, it did turn out to be an idyllic little surf town. When I arrived I parked and took a stroll down to the waterfront where a river fed into the sea and out on a peninsula I could make out a skatepark. But my skateboard was long gone by now (I imagine that the security woman who took it from me at the Sydney airport took it home to her son. I could only hope that he'd make use of it). I stopped in at the grocery store and bought peanut butter, jelly, bread, and beer and then drove along the coast to Solscape.
I'd read about Solscape in my travel book. It sounded like the hippie/surfer place to stay, and that's the sort of experience I was looking for. For the time being I'd had enough of crowded backpacker hostels. I wanted to spread out and kick back. At Solscape they've taken old train boxcars and cut them in half and turned them into bunkhouses. That sounded pretty cool to me. But they also offer accommodation in tipis. I opted for a tipi, and I'd even reserved it ahead of time, booking it online for a three night stay.
I arrived to Solscape and checked in. The lady at the front desk explained that the tipi retreat was about a five minute walk from the parking. I grabbed a few things from the car and walked through the boxcar camp where there were a bunch of tan people chatting and lounging in hammocks. And then I saw the sign for the tipis and the trail took me down a hill and into a ravine of dense bush consisting mostly of ferns. There was a spring and a bit of a swamp at the bottom, and then the trail went up and out of the ravine, and the bush opened wide to a big, magnificent clearing, and around the perimeter of the clearing on the hillside there were six or seven tipis, each of which stood about twenty feet tall.
It sure was quiet out there. I couldn't tell for certain, but it seemed that I was the only person staying out there. But it was still early, and it was possible that others would arrive later on. Either way, I told myself, it was going to be awesome.
I went to check out the surf. As I drove along the winding coastal road my stoke ran high. It was a beautiful day out, and just a couple minutes down the road I arrived to a superb point break. The waves really were immaculate. I wondered if I should go and rent a board immediately, but I hadn't surfed in a year and didn't want to get in over my head. I decided I'd get on the surfing tip the following day. After watching the waves break for a while I drove back to town. I had a few beers and scrawled words and doodles in my little black book. Eventually I made my way back to Solscape.
Back at the tipi retreat it was all crickets and cicadas. I sat on the hillside with my six pack and read. I told myself, You are so lucky to get all of this to yourself and for only twenty dollars a night! But I'd be lying if I didn't admit to feeling a touch of the old loneliness. I knew that upfront amidst the boxcars everyone was being sociable, meeting new and interesting people, exchanging stories, maybe making friends. And on the quiet hillside I was drinking quickly, pissing every thirty minutes, waiting for the sun to set so that going to sleep was acceptable. I knew that I had it in my power to get up and walk the five minutes and say hello, but instead I raced to finish the sixth beer.

May 11, 2011

AUCK -> RAG 2011

My first night in Auckland I got cleaned up. I shaved and had a steaming hot shower that turned me red. I put on some fresh clothes and walked into town.
I was staying in Parnell, a nice area up a hill outside the city centre. I walked the length of the main drag down and back in search of the perfect dinner, but in the end I settled for a kebab. Then I went to buy a bottle of wine. I figured I'd drink it from a bag on a bench in a park.
The wine shop was a nice one. Because I came to New Zealand to make Pinot Noir in Central Otago, when the owner asked what I was looking for I said, "Pinot from Central Otago." He showed me where to direct my attention. After I picked something out I got in line at the register behind another guy. The owner of the shop praised this other customer for his choice of a couple different Italian wines and went on to bash those who spend their money on overpriced Pinots from Central. I got to the register next. "Hey, now I'm really looking forward to drinking this (you dickhead)." He back-pedalled fast saying, "'re great," and asked where I'd be working. I told him Mt. Difficulty and he asked, "Working for Matt?" Yeah. "Oh, well, Matt makes great wines. Don't tell him what I said."
Back outside it was raining. My bench in a park was out of the question. I opened the bottle as I walked down the road and I had a couple sips from it. But I determined then that I didn't want to drink. I'd been on the piss every night since my arrival to New Zealand, and what I really wanted to do was go back to the hostel, get in bed and fall asleep.

The next day I went nowhere in particular. I wandered blindly, but struck upon a nice part of town, a posh area consisting of cafes and bars, bookstores and fancy clothing shops. While I visited the cafes and bars and bookstores(I actually stumbled upon the same bookstore where eight years earlier I bought Lolita), I only gazed through the windows of the clothing shops. After hours of eating, drinking, and people watching, I went to the movies and with me I brought that bottle of wine from the night previous. I saw The King's Speech and I'll be damned if that wasn't a super cute and touching film, and in combination with all the wine it tugged at my heartstrings, and when I left the theater all I wanted to do was jump on the email and send a love letter.

But the next morning I was glad I hadn't. That was the day I was to depart from Auckland. I took a trip down autorow in search of a cheap rental car, but in typical fashion I went without anything reserved and so there was nothing available. Eventually I settled on a car that cost twice as much as I wanted to pay. I left town feeling sick over the burning sensation in my pocket, but I tried not to think about it. I listened to the idiotic banter of radio DJ's ("Call in or text!! And let us know if you like eating soggy cereal!!) and then Mary J. Blige. It was all interstate for a while, but then I got off the main road and I was driving through small, farming town suburbs, and then it was into the big, green, rolling pasture hills and I lost the radio. I sang to myself, but I'm no good at memorizing lyrics, so I sang Christmas songs. Things loosened up more. The roads got wild, and things got jungly as the bush grew thick all around me, and the air felt tropical and it was like I was entering a lush jungle paradise, and I was singing Jingle Bell Rock the whole way. Then I arrived to the town of Raglan, and it all went surfy.

April 11, 2011

WEL -> AUCK 2011

I had to get out of Wellington. I wouldn't be able to handle any more of the crowd or accommodation. I knew of a train out of there, got online and booked a departure for early the next morning.
When I woke up it was 6 AM and raining. I hailed a cab to the station, bought some fruit, and found the way to my seat on the train. Altogether I'd spent around twelve hours in Wellington, half of them asleep.
The train was bound for Auckland. It was a twelve hour ride, but a pleasant one. The stormy conditions kept up the whole way. On the train there was a little outdoor platform between cars and from there I filmed the countryside all coated in mist.
I was seated beside a woman a few years older than myself. We both kept to ourselves for the first ten hours of the ride, but in the last two started talking. As it turned out she's a writer, and she'd seen me writing in this little book so much, and so we had writing to talk about. She asked me who I like to read. I was about to say that Hemingway is my favorite but instead decided not to answer and told her that I always freeze up at that question. She said that she does too, that it's a stupid question, and I felt such a relief I didn't say Hemingway.
When she asked what I like to write I told her that in school I focused on fiction, but that since then I haven't had the drive for it, that now I'm more a fan of non-fiction (and by that all I meant is that I like writing casual accounts of my travels in this little book). She went on to tell me that she'd just finished a documentary, and I remember that I felt so strongly that she is in a league much different than my own, a serious league, a league where people really have some drive, where people write things that get written about.
Then, hesitantly, she told me that she'd just had a poem published. She said, "I've never really written poetry but...." I laughed and told her that I was afraid to admit it, but recently poetry has been my main squeeze.
It was nice to meet her.

A girl in Wellington had recommended me a place to stay in Auckland, so when I arrived I caught a cab over there. We pulled up front, I paid the guy and he drove off, and then I walked in and they were all booked up. I'd done it again. But it was only a short walk in the rain until I found a place. It was a good spot. It was such a quiet spot. I booked it for two nights up front. And so I'd spend some time in one place.

March 18, 2011

KAI -> WEL 2011

From Kaikoura I continued north. I spent the morning drinking wine in Blenheim. Then I dropped the car in Picton (and the cigarettes in the trash) and caught a ferry to the North Island. It was a scenic ride through winds so strong that it was a four hour trip instead of the usual three. I filmed the scenery and got some rest.
I arrived to Wellington with no plans. I caught a taxi into the city center and looked for a bed. At the first place I stopped in at I was told they were totally booked and that all the other places in town were too. I broke into a slight panic and got angry with myself for not having arranged any accommodation. But I also laughed at myself and felt some excitement over the mystery of where I'd end up.
After dropping by a few more places I found a bed, but it was at the last sort of place I'd ever want to stay. It was a very young crowd there, all travelling by tourist buses, all very much Tourists. I had a bed on the sixth floor in a room that stunk of urine. I showered and dressed and got the hell out.
As it turned out there was a big music festival going on that weekend. That's why it was hard to find a bed. And that's why by seven o'clock the city was already popping off. I couldn't find a bar to go to alone. I tried a couple different places, but alone I looked so lonely. I'd order a drink and throw it back quickly and then escape back to the street. I went for another pack of cigarettes. This time it was decorated with an old, rotted-out pair of lungs. I smoked on a street corner and cursed the crowds of smiling party-goers.
It was a Friday. I was supposed to be having fun out on the town. I didn't really feel like drinking though. I went for a whiskey on ice and took it as a shot. It wasn't any fun. I felt dark. It was the trip's first bout of loneliness, but it was funny to watch myself squirm.
It was that night, sitting in a nice bar with a tall bottle of beer that I revised something I'd written in the past. I had once jotted down: "Travelling alone purges the soul of its weaknesses." I changed it to: "Travelling alone does not purge the soul of its weaknesses so much as it acts like a flashlight and just points them all out."

KAI 2004

I met Grant and the first thing I noticed were the tattoos on his hands, and it was hard to tell the difference between his natural odor and the sack of weed in his pocket. Grant was a good person and we talked about aliens and politics, and history and everything, and so I learned that Grant was good as well as knowledgeable and said some funny shit on the side. There were some talkative sisters from Christchurch and some old ladies who gave me a cup of whiskey mixed with lemonade. And I woke up that night to find the sisters sitting in bed with me until one left and came back and left again (and that's what she had been doing all night at the bar, leaving and coming back, and I couldn't understand why. I just sat alone eating cookies with my beer).
She and her sister had checked out and left by the time I woke up the next morning. One of them had left her socks behind. I considered for a moment keeping them but in the end I threw them in the trash.
The next couple of days were hazy downers with some good food on the side. I thought that maybe I was wasting my time hanging around Kaikoura but I was happy so I didn't mind. I knew that soon enough I would be on new adventures meeting good people around the country.
On my last night I couldn't sleep and then a siren started going off somewhere in town that sounded like the end of the world had come. Grant and I had a talk of conspiracies and the state the world is in and I decided that now is a crazy time to be alive - a time when anything is possible.

March 13, 2011

CHCH -> KAI 2011

I arrived to Christchurch and rented a car. It wasn't until I tossed my bags in the trunk and changed into some fresh clothes that I smiled big.
On my way out of town I stopped at the first bottle shop I saw and picked up a sixer and a pack of Winfield's. The cigarettes had a warning on them about heart disease with an image alongside. Back at the car I cracked a beer and took the cellophane from the box of cigarettes. I was disappointed to find that the health warning was not a sticker that could be peeled from the box and forgotten about but actually printed on the packaging. From then on I'd fetch a cigarette without looking at the pack, avoiding at all costs that diseased organ.
At first the landscape wasn't much to talk about - just a flat suburban spread of dull colors -, but once out of town it quickly came to life. It's a dense and diverse patchwork. From one side of a fence to another, depending on what's being farmed or how heavily the land is grazed upon, the colors and textures can vary dramatically.
I was reluctant to pull over and take pictures. I just wanted to get there. But I did pull over. I brought along my old super8 video camera. The first time I pulled the car to the side of the road it was to shoot the hills with their almond-colored grasses blowing in the wind (and I worried that I might return home with my video footage consisting entirely of grass blowing in the wind). There were sheep up the hillside and a dry brown gully ran through the land with green-saturated palm trees in it (the kind you'd find in a Dr. Seuss book)(Seuss lived in New Zealand for some period of time).
Popping a second beer I carried on.
The hills are reminiscent of those along Northern California's coast - the golden grasses of Pescadero (ironically, I was travelling along New Zealand's Pacific Coast Highway 1). The further north I headed the more lush the bush became. From golden to lime green the grasses went. There were more and more of Seuss's palms, and there were ferns, and higher up in elevation lines of pines looked like corduroy.
I stopped briefly in a town called Chivton. I filmed a fat boy riding his bicycle. I climbed a fence and filmed forty old men lawn bowling. I got a bloody nose and got back in the car. I opened one last beer and lit up another cigarette. I hate cigarettes but I felt them really working, melting away all the layers of stress accumulated on all the flights over from San Francisco.
Next thing I knew I was taking turns at 100km with a cig between my lips, a cool beer held between my thighs, and my camera in my right hand shooting blindly out the window.
I laid eyes on the ocean and attempted to let out a sort of celebratory yodel but it came out as more of a wolf howl, but the wolf howl felt more appropriate.
As I arrived into the small beach town of Kaikoura I thought about what all I remembered from when I was here last. It was seven years ago and I was nineteen years old. I remember this bend in the road, and that's where we ran out of gas that time, and around this bend will be the skatepark! (O! Skateboard! Where are you?!)
I rolled up to the same hostel I stayed at the last time I was here - The Fish Tank. I got a room and it was the same room I slept in the last time. I told the guy at the front desk that I'd stayed there before, seven years ago. He said, "Well, you'll see that we've made some changes, cleaned it up quite a bit." I asked how so? He said, "Well, we don't grow dope on the roof anymore and we don't let hookers hang around." I wondered to myself, "Were those girls hookers?"
That evening in Kaikoura I didn't do much. I had some beers, walked along the beach, and cooked some pasta. After dinner I took my little notebook and pen and went for beers down the street. It was a quiet night in an already quiet town. It was the kind of bar where you can sit alone without looking lonely.
Sitting there at the bar having my drink, my only thought was of how anonymous I felt, of how anonymous I really was. Nobody knew a thing about me, and I found such a feeling of comfort in that.


March 9, 2011

CHCH 2004

Due to the recent earthquake I didn't spend any time in Christchurch, but back in 2004 at the age of 19 I arrived to Christchurch after 65 days in the Australian Outback. I had a book back then that I was writing in, and I only filled the first quarter of it. I thought it appropriate to bring along on this trip.
I hadn't read from it since back then, and it has been a funny read for me. The language used and themes hit upon are all rather dramatic(not much has changed). Having reread all these old travelogues, I can say that over the years I've definitely forgotten certain details of my '04 solo travels. Also, I remember things happening that get no mention. I certainly censored some of my experiences.
Anyways, I thought it would be funny to put some of these stories up.

Christchurch, 2004

I arrived in Christchurch, New Zealand looking utterly homeless in my filthy bush pants and my hair in my eyes. I was feeling particularly self-conscious, certain that I would meet no one because of my appearance. In the hostel I saw beautiful girls, and everyone was dressed up nicely and I had horrible thoughts of cleaning myself up to look like the rest of them. I downed beer after beer hoping to get drunk enough so as to escape myself.
Between beers I would go down the streets with my hood on my head. I walked in circles in front of a Gothic church and it seemed as though the clamor of the bells would never stop and an older man and woman were trying to play their guitar and fiddle and I really wanted to listen but they got frustrated and left. I sat in front of the hostel where groups of people my age socialized and met for the first time, and I felt pathetic.
Passing the socializing group I asked one of the guys what there was to do in "this goddam town," making it sound as though I had looked all over and come up with absolutely nothing. He said "smoke weed" and I laughed and he and his friends were amused with the way I spoke and the fact that I was cruising without plans and they told me that I was loose, which as far as I could gather meant that they thought I was an alright guy.
We went to pool hall with some girls from Georgia where we drank liquor from a teapot. I met a girl named Jenny (and her friend said, "I'll pay you a dollar to kiss Jenny," and I told her that she didn't have to pay me.) Jenny laughed at the sight of the holes in my shoes and it became apparent to me early on that the two of us would get along. After a few unskilled games of pool we left and went to another bar, past a river and through a park where Jenny and I laid down and kissed and held each other and she said, "I needed this," and I said, "me too."
At the bar a large man blew flames from his mouth and I conversed with a seriously genuine person named Sam. He bought me a beer that I didn't need but I thanked him and sipped it down quick. He told me that travelling alone has its ups and downs and I appreciated the advice of this brutally obvious truth that I had yet to recognize. I asked him for his contact information and said, "Maybe I'll just write you some time," and he said, "Don't say maybe," and I said, "Ya know, sometimes people meet when they're drunk - " and he said, "No man, get in touch," and I said I would.
I wanted to leave the bar but Jenny had two drinks for some reason, so I drank one, a vodka tonic, and I hate vodka tonics, but I drank it and we left. We went back through the same park and later bumped into one of Jenny's friends who brushed grass off Jenny's back and pulled a leaf from my hair.
Jenny's hotel was next to my hostel. We kissed out front and then I asked Jenny what her last name was, and then I said, "Goodnight Jenny Shaw," and I went inside.

March 5, 2011

SF -> CHCH 2011

On the eve of my departure to New Zealand I dreamt of sharks circling me in icy blue waters. But they did not devour me.

My flight was for Christchurch. Just recently though, Christchurch suffered a devastating earthquake. My initial thought was that it might be cool or interesting to see a crumbled city. But as my departure date neared and I read up on the situation there in Christchurch I came to realize that's it's neither cool nor interesting, just very sad.
My mom urged me to rearrange my flights, to fly into Auckland instead, and I told her I'd deal with it once in Australia.
On the way over from Los Angeles I still had thoughts of going through to Christchurch. "There might not be anywhere to stay," I thought, "but I've got my sleeping bag and I can crash in a park and it'll make for a good story." But I recognized these thoughts to be similar to bad ideas I've had in the past, and so I decided that once in Sydney I would arrange to fly to Auckland.
The 14 hour flight was actually not at all bad. I played it well. Stayed up for the first five or so hours, watched a movie, had some food and drink, popped some pills and conked out . Woke up with three hours left on the clock.
Once in Sydney I learned that my bag was checked all the way through to Christchurch. I'd have to act quick if I was going to get a flight to Auckland and then have the bag intercepted and sent along with me. I was to go through security, and it was there that my skateboard was confiscated.
"You can't take that through," she told me.
"What?! Why?"
"No sporting equipment, love."
"Can I check it somehow?"
"No, too late."
"Can I carry it to the gate and have them stow it for me?"
"So I can't have my skateboard anymore?"
"Sorry, love."
She went on to tell me that if I went to the gate and made a big enough fuss they might make and exception for me, "but you didn't hear that from me," she said.
I tried to fuss twice and flirt once. None were successful. Each time I was greeted with a rules-are-rules attitude.
This attempt to rescue my dear friend took up any time I had to arrange for a flight to Auckland, and so I boarded a plane headed for Christchurch. Not surprisingly, the plane was only half full. The flight attendant offered me a newspaper. It was from Christchurch, and the headlines read like this:
"Central City 'could be closed for months'"
"Tributes laid in shadows of city's broken heart"
"Searchers to begin hunt in cathedral for bodies"
"City chokes on clouds of clogging dust"
"This is NZ but it's 'like a zombie movie'"

February 24, 2011

AP Vin

With my New Zealand wine experience in the near future I take a look back at my most recent harvest work at A.P. Vin.
This last fall I worked as right-hand man to winemaker Andrew Vingiello, making handcrafted, vineyard-designate, liquid-dynamite.
Andrew's '09 Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir retails for $48 and just received a score of 95 from Wine Spectator.




February 20, 2011



After 4 months away from the blogosphere I formally announce my triumphant return.
And then I realize I have nothing to show for myself (other than the print displayed above).