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'"