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.