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Monday, February 26, 2007

CUBA INVADES NEW ZEALAND!


February has been a busy month, what with the Bill Bryson luncheon, the fishing trip and my invitation to apply for New Zealand residency. And, oh yeah, my birthday of a distressingly large number.

But enough about that.

I could not think of a better way to have spent the last weekend of February 2007 than by taking part in the Cuba Street Carnival. It's billed as New Zealand's largest street festival, and judging from the size of the crowds yesterday, I have every reason to take their word for it. It did not hurt that the weather was picture perfect, so good that once again yours truly FORGOT his sunblock and has ended up with his third case of sunburn in as many weeks.

I'll take the pain, though, as I had a great time yesterday. Appropriately enough, I started the day at a cafe called Fidel's, and yes it is fashioned after Castro himself. Fortunately for me the cafe is run as a capitalist outfit so there were no trade issues involved. It's one of dozens of great spots in Wellington to grab a coffee and some kind of baked good and relax and enjoy the atmosphere. They've been so successful, in fact, that they've opened a second cafe just a block or two further down Cuba Street called Ernesto's, this one a tribute to Ernesto "Che" Guevara. It looks a bit more upscale but I've only heard good things about that one as well, so I'll be off to visit that cafe sometime soon, and I won't wait until next year's carnival to do so!

Anyways, starting the day out at Fidel's was mere serendipity, as I had agreed to meet a friend there for she and I had never had coffee there before and we were both impressed. After she went back home, I met up with some more friends, this time Sarah, Simon and Alastair. Sarah is my newest co-worker and fellow vet, Simon is her fiance and Al is their friend, and it was they among others who I hung out with at the Wellington Cup horse races last month.

We all grabbed some delicious food (they got Indian, I had some lemonade and cajun-spiced corn on the cob) and walked around for a bit. Al and Simon went off to play some tennis as the weather was too good to pass up, and Sarah stayed with me to brave the crowds so I could have someone with whom to pass the time until the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra performed mid-afternoon. They were the primary reason I wanted to stick around during the day, as I keep missing them at their monthly gig at the Deluxe Cafe. They are becoming quite the phenomenon and their website is really good - I encourage you to check it out! Rest assured, if you come to visit me, WIUO is going to be on the agenda!

But before they took the stage, we enjoyed listening to some salsa music and I really need to learn how to dance like that! It looks like something I could handle, so perhaps after these acting and writing classes I'll sign myself up for some dancin'.

The ukulele band finally came on stage and they were so great. They were all having a blast and their enthusiasm was contagious and the street and sidewalks were packed with fans. They played a song about Scooby Doo to open their set, then did some covers including a tune by Crowded House (New Zealand's own) and they finished with Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues". They even managed an impressive cover of Cream's "White Room" and their lead ukulelist (?) could really jam on the solos. Eric Clapton would have been proud. I thought it was cool that there were like 8 or 9 ukuleles playing and one big stand-up bass. I noticed how the bassist was dressed in shirt and tie and was standing (as you do, with a stand-up bass), and the ukulelists were all seated and dressed in random festival attire. An effective contrast!

Simon and Al picked us up and we all hit the store and retired to Simon and Sarah's place for a barbie before heading back into town to catch the Cuba Street Parade that evening. Included in my picture set (new linkie to the right----->) of the Carnival are a couple of shots of Sarah's view from her house in Brooklyn. Very choice!

We made it back just in time to catch the entire parade and it was pretty cool. Lots of great drummers in several of the processions, and by the end of the night I felt like I could do the salsa, I had seen so much of it throughout the day.

After that, the downtown strip came alive as everybody adjourned from the parade to the pubs and clubs along Courtenay Place. This is the happening spot in Wellington after dark and it's so easy to hit several dozen clubs within a short walk. We hung out at the Wellington Sports Bar for a bit, but as the rest of the gang went on to another club after that I found I had to get back home.

Can't party as long and hard as I used to, but it was a great day and one well-spent! I added another great spot for coffee to my list and have now seen New Zealand's biggest street festival.

The good times don't stop there, however, as next weekend I'm going to see New Zealand's very own Bic Runga with her sister Boh Runga as they perform an acoustic set at the Alana Estate Vineyard over in the Wairarapa Valley. Bic has just announced she is pregnant but she will finish her mini-tour anyways, including a trip out to the west coast of the States right after this. Looking forward to seeing her live, and if you have not heard her music before, check it out! She's got a beautiful voice and she writes great songs.

I'll be sure to blog all about it next weekend, same Brooksie-time, same Brooksie-channel!

Friday, February 23, 2007

Just another day in the life of "Jet Set" Brooksie...

Well, zipped up to Auckland and back yesterday, to see 'my boy' Bill Bryson give a talk at a luncheon. Grabbed the 9:30 out of Wellington, touched down in the old capital city an hour later, snagged a shuttle straight to the Hyatt Regency, and began to loiter like nobody's business.

I got there a wee bit early, you see, so I took a stroll around the inside of the hotel to kill some time before the luncheon began. It's a really nice place, with an excellent bar - the Cokes there are top-notch.

Somehow, I managed to resist buying another one of Bryson's books, even with the great prices they had on hardcover editions. Normally I'd have ponied up fifty bucks or so and increased the size of my collection (plus hardcovers make excellent book-signing fodder and hence great gifts), but lately I've been priding myself on curbing my spendy ways so I saved the money for the shuttles instead. Jet-set living ain't cheap, ya know!

Well finally they started letting us all in to take our seats, and there were a good fifty tables or so in the dining hall, with eight people seated at each table. I was the first one at my table, so I grabbed the choicest seat available (the one with the best view of the podium) and made myself comfortable.

Soon after that, my table-mates began drifting in, and I was surrounded on either side by a pair of husband-wife couples who could not have been more pleasant! To my left were Kristin and Ash, and on my right were Tracy and Doug. They were really great company, and I have added them to the long and growing list of friendly and fascinating Kiwis that I've met since moving to New Zealand. At the end of the luncheon, I felt a real pang of disappointment as I realized I would probably never see them again!

Still, it's experiences like that which make life all the richer, so I'll take it for what it was and be glad I got to know them a little bit. It was also pretty cool to meet fellow Bryson fans and discuss what we all like best about his books and experiences.

Speaking of Bill Bryson, his speech was excellent and he is truly as witty in person as he is in print! It wouldn't always follow, I imagine, that an excellent (and humorous) writer would necessarily be just as engaging in person, but Bryson certainly is. He must get a little of his sense of humor from his father, whom Bryson says was always fond of a good pun. My kind of comedy!

To steal shamelessly from Bryson's speech and to give you a sort of feeling of what it was like to be there, I'll give you this little anecdote he shared with all of us about his late father.

On one of their many family vacations across the U.S.A. while growing up, Bryson's dad took them all to San Francisco. At one point, they were all standing right next to the infamous San Andreas Fault.

Inexplicably, Bryson's father took a quarter out of his pocket and flicked it casually into the crack.

"Why did you just do that, dad?" Bryson asked.

"Well, I've always wanted it said that I was 'generous to a fault'."

Haha! I must share that one with my friends Todd and Mike back home, those guys love puns and I've been present at many a masterful exchange when the two of them get going. I never partook in those exchanges because I'm one of those guys who might be funny, but only thinks of something really good about a half hour later. C'est la vie.

Mr. Bryson also read us a couple of passages from his latest book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, and they were excellent. Much as I love Bryson's books, there are still three or four I have yet to read, and I'm trying my hardest to savor them for as long as possible. Once I've read them all, it will be so disappointing to not have anymore to look forward to!

That's not entirely true, of course, for he is still alive and well and he sure seems to me to have a good number of books left in him. He did sort of hint that New Zealand may well be the topic for a book of his one day, which is great! He is in fact spending at least a couple of weeks down here with his daughter, first doing the book tours and signings, and then staying on to enjoy the awesomeness that is New Zealand for a bit. I honestly hope he finds several things that hook his literary interests while he's here, and for the life of me I cannot see how he could resist.

Hell, if he doesn't write a book about travels in New Zealand, I will just have to beat him to it!

Once the luncheon was finished, Bill took a few questions from the audience and then graciously stayed on to sign however many books however many of us had brought with us. I had my second-hand copy of "Down Under", which I thought most appropriate given where I am right now.

I had him make it out: "To Brandon - a fellow American with wanderlust" which he wrote, and then signed it, "Best Wishes - Bill Bryson". As he was writing I told him how his books were a large part of my inspiration to move to New Zealand in the first place, which is entirely true (Tony Horwitz would be the other author who has so moved me to, well...move).

After that I caught the shuttle back to the airport, and along the way had a great conversation with a pleasant elderly English woman. Seems her vacation time Down Under had doubled from two weeks to four, although not by choice. Poor thing had come down with a dreaded DVT (deep vein thrombosis) on her flight over from the UK and the New Zealand doctors wouldn't grant her leave to fly back until she had medical clearance. So, loaded up with blood thinners and a clean bill of health, she too was on her way to the airport for the very long slog back across the Pacific then the States and finally to jolly old England.

She was to spend last night in Los Angeles and I'd imagine that by now she's back in Essex, where she makes her home. She had a great spirit and was so friendly, and given what had happened to her on her vacation she had every right to be sour and depressed, especially since her husband had gone back home two weeks ago. But she was indomitable and great company on the long shuttle ride back to the airport, and I wish her the very best!

Yet another great person I've met down here that I'll never see again, but that's what makes life so grand, isn't it? An encounter with a truly nice and unique person will keep you floating for days. Since moving down here I've met great people from the world over, not just New Zealand: Zimbabwe, Australia, Canada, England, and last but not least the United States.

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness."

Mark Twain was so right!

Sunday, February 18, 2007

The Old Man and the Sea*

Aye, the sea she was rough that day, me hearties. Never was there such a tempest brewed up so wicked as what awaited us that fateful day out at Castlepoint.

The prior day's journey out proved a cunning deceit as it was warm and sunny, with but a few clouds scattered across the blue sky. A commandin' wind scattered them few and far between so they could not blot out the sun in their jealous manner.

Sadly on this day most of us were actin' the part of lubbers, leavin' the beguilin' calm of the sea for the next day. Our folly can be excused only by the solid-as-granite fact that no mere man can e'er predict the weather, especially in this fine country of New Zealand.

At the very least my mates and me got to enjoy various pursuits out of doors, plunderin' all of the fruits that the Castlepoint community had to offer. Some of us fished off of the dangerous razor-sharp reef, no stranger to the killin' of men and marked by a skull-and-crossbones sign. Still others scouted up to the very pinnacle of Castlepoint, so named by Captain Cook and his men for its resemblance of the battlement of a castle. So precipitous is the drop from up there that I defy any one of ye to take a look o'er the edge without succumbin' to vertigo. The sheer cliff face drops off to the churnin' sea below, actually disappearin' into the hill underneath before meetin' the jagged rocks at the bottom. Ye truly are juttin' out on the very edge, much like it feels to walk the dreaded plank. The footpath itself be merely inches wide at the top, forcin' ye to walk one foot in front of t'other in this bravest of territories. Don’t be expectin’ the wind to give ye safe passage, neither, for it forever be tryin’ to blow ye off the top of the craggy peak. It’s envious of the reef below, y'see, for although it has sent more than a few idle blokes to their death below, it cannot claim half so many victims as the evil reef to its north. Together they form a beautiful yet fatal guardian to the shallow lagoon between them.

A mite more peacefully across the lagoon from these natural scalawags is the bluff on what perches the lighthouse. Ye can still fall to yer untimely death from these heights, if ye so desire, although ye’d have to try a stitch harder than ye would at the reef or the 'point. There be caves carved by the sea 'round its base, but don't be expectin' me to stash me booty in any of them for they're far too bloody obvious. This impressive bluff of limestone be a good spot to look out to sea for corsairs and potential plunder.

'Twas from this dangerous lagoon that my mates and me sallied forth on the Legionaire that day, what dawned with many a whitecap on the ocean. A threatenin' grey sky with a leaden belly loomed above. Fearless and foolish we may have been; ne'ertheless, we sailed out into the Big Blue. After layin' our nets down to catch any fish or crays near the shore (“Plan B”), we shot past the smaller of the two boats and out to the Deeps.

We were forced to stay close enough to land that we could still see it, yet the low-flyin' grey rain clouds hung low enough to block the coast from the horizon. Bein' the old salts that we were, we still knew the shore was there, tho’ we could not always see it.

Between the rain spittin' in our faces and the black sea splashin' up o'er the sides of the craft, we weighed anchor at a choice spot and immediately proceeded to plunder what the sea she would give us.

Mad Tony the Executioner and Russell the Bloodstain were the first victims of the ocean that day, both spendin' much of their time on board horizontal and green, when they weren’t havin’ a chunder o'er the edge.

Undaunted by the treacherous weather, the rest of us grabbed our rods and thrust them into the water, in the hopes of hookin' some choice dinner.

Bilge Rat Bob was the first in the water with his pole, and within seconds he had snagged some Spotty on each of his three hooks. This promisin' feat would prove to be as diabolical as the Razor Reef back home, as the rest of our trip was spent tryin' in vain to equal the excitement of that quick catch.

Our fearless cap'n, Pegleg Bob, decided he’d had enough and didn’t want the sea tryin' to claim the Legionaire as her own. So we drew anchor and headed for safer ports near home.

Futile this would be, as even tho' we were closer to shore and in calmer seas, Mad Tony and Bloody Russell continued to jettison the contents of their stomachs. When those were empty of all they held, the two men remained wracked with anguish and the bloody dry heaves.

Catchin' a wee three sharks in this spot, we decided to surrender to the sea that day. The sun ne'er did come out from behind the sullen sky, nearly the sea’s equal in the wrath meted out on our ship.

We finally made harbour north o' the lighthouse, and immediately Mad Tony’s spirits improved. We caught a lone bass, too small for keepin’, but were able to have a good feast on the barbecue. Mad Tony put away all of his share of grub - aye, and a bottle of grog, too - altho' Bloody Russell was still nowhere to be found above decks.

The lone bit of mirth we had, aside from watchin' Tony’s vomit spray all o'er the backs of Cash-Strapped Jimmy and "Blood and Guts" Lois as it whipped 'round the mast pole and come back into the ship, was the crackin' of the picnic table.

As we made our way back across the waves - four-meter swells, some o' them - Pegleg Bob’s 1300-horsepower engine generated a centrifugal force on board that was somethin’ fierce.

Seated at the picnic table with me were Iain the Bitter, "Blood and Guts", and Fartin' Steve Bellamy. I noticed earlier one of its bolts be weakenin’ as the table rocked to-and-fro in sync with the motions of the craft o'er the waves. Yet this were the first time there were four of us seated at the table, and at a time when we were travelin' at our fastest o'er the waves at their angriest.

With a sudden loud ‘CRACK!’ the table gave way under poor Iain. As I looked on diagonally across the wreckage from me, wonderin' if Iain be injured in any way, "Blood and Guts" Lois to me right remained pinned to the deck but gripped in fits of laughter. So was Fartin' Steve, directly across from me, who had leapt up and was pointin' down at poor Iain and laughin' heartily.

Iain was red-faced as I’ve ever seen a man. He lay on his backside, and as yet I could not see if he had been damaged by the splintered table but I would soon realize all that was injured was his pride.

Bitter Iain, being the portliest of all of us, had been sittin' right o'er where the table strut had split asunder, tho' I do not think the sole reason for its crackin' was his weight alone. 'Twere the motion of the four of us and the sea that did it in, tho' it still didn’t stop the piss-takin' Iain would get for the rest of the day. We had to look smartly as we cleaned up the wreckage, lest Pegleg Bob find out and take it out on us with the lash. Didn't want the cat comin' out o' the bag on that stormy day, me hearties! Nay!

That night we took our tea at Cap'n Pegleg Bob’s tavern, and much ribbin' and jestin' returned the sense of good humour, stolen earlier that day by the ever-unpredictable and fickle sea.

I meself did not catch anythin' except Iain’s own fishin' line – on two different occasions – but at least I got out there and survived the pitchin' and rollin' without a hint o' the sickness. I earned me ‘sea legs’ that day, and once we returned to shore, I could still feel the constant churnin' of the sea under me, tho' we be on dry land.

The sea, she calls to me still. It be in me Portuguese blood, and I must return to her again one day soon.


Arrrr!

Signed in blood and the Ink of the Kraken,

"Monkey" Brooksie Da Silva


* With all due respects to Papa, International Talk Like A Pirate Day, and, well, all good quality writers everywhere. And as it was me birthday and I turned the ripe old age of 37, I be thinkin' the title of this postin' appropriate. If ye disagrees with me, ye'd best be singin' a different tune, ya bastards!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Aw yeah...



Good things are starting to happen! One of my biggest goals of the year was to obtain residency here in New Zealand, and as you can see from above I've been invited to apply for it. I'm just waiting on a little letter from the FBI stating that I, Brooksie, am not now or have ever been a detriment to society, and then I can send in my application. Everything else is done, including my Medical Certificate, so come on, G-Men!

Wish me luck, everyone.

In other exciting news, I started my drama class the other night, and it was a hell of a lot of fun. There are twelve of us total taking the class, and we have two instructors. There is even another American in the class (small world, eh?), and he's a psychiatrist from North Carolina - just one state to the south of Virginia! This class will run a total of eight weeks, at once per week (not nearly enough!), and then after a four-week break, it resumes again with another eight week session. The goal is for the class, should we all stay together, to spend the second eight weeks focusing on putting on a production.

We did a little bit of improvisation the other night, which is far and away my favorite thing about drama, and there are actually two members of W.I.T. (Wellington Improvisation Troupe) in my class. They are both quite talented, I can already tell, so I hope to learn a lot from them and am looking forward to the next class.

There is one thing that was a surprise, however, and it's something I think that will be really cool. You see, the class is called "Drama - Mixed Abilities." To my dear old naive self, I assumed this meant that it was open to aspiring actors of all talent/experience levels, from "None" to "Oscar Winner".

No.

It means... it's an acting class for people with disabilities. Hence you can understand my instructor's quizzical expression when she turned up at the theater the other night, and there I was, the first and only person there waiting for class to start. Unbeknownst to me, she was likely expecting one of her students with Down's Syndrome from the last class to show up. So I'm chatting with her about her experiences as a director and an actor, and at the first lull in the conversation, she asks me:

"So, you do realize that this is a class for people with disabilities, right?"

Awkward pause. Me wearing a big grin.

"Oh!" I go. "Well, I don't really think that's going to be a problem for me. Is it still all right if I take the class?"

"Well that's all up to you," Kate (my instructor) says. "I think it can work, and we'll see who else shows up and if there's anyone else like you who misunderstood the class description."

Turns out, I wasn't the only one who misunderstood, although several of the others did realize it was meant for disabled people but also thought it was open to everybody.

Fortunately for us, it is open to everyone. I hope all twelve of us return for next Monday's session, and it certainly seemed like that would be the case at the end of the last class. There was a lot of good energy with the group last week, and our instructors are great. I am looking forward to this experience more than ever now! It will be unlike anything else I've ever done.

Word has it that our production will be an adaptation of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream", about which I know very little but I am eager to do anything related to The Bard, for I never have!

I've always wanted to say, "Get thee to a nunnery!"*
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*Hamlet, Act III, Scene i

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Everything but The Girl

This isn't a reference to the cool British couple/band (they had that dance hit, "Missing", back in the late 90s), but I've always liked that name and it is quite an apt title for this posting.

For those of you keeping score at home, you may remember a passing mention of mine in the past to a British girl that works at the place where I get my haircut, and my crush on her.

("That's why they call them crushes. If they were easy, they'd call them something else." - Jim Baker in Sixteen Candles.)

Well, work has gotten quite hectic lately, and I'm going on a big fishing trip next weekend, so I'm also working my next regularly scheduled day off. This is usually when I'll get my hair cut, among other things, but the hair's gotten quite thick lately and I can't reasonably wait another two weeks to have it trimmed.

If I wait that long I'll look just like Animal from the Muppets!

So I've had to juggle some things and schedule the haircut ASAP, which was today, Saturday. The woman who usually cuts my hair was working today but she was booked up. So when I called the other day they scheduled me with Lisa instead.

Which is the name of The Girl in question, as I have come to find out.

You see, I never did get around to asking her out. I've made more small talk here and there and did find out her name in the course of talking to her some more, but there was never really a golden opportunity where asking her out wouldn't have sounded forced or rushed. But that was all right as I had resolved myself to take the plunge and just ask her out when the chance did come around again. As I get my haircut every five weeks or so, and she's nearly always there when I turn up, I figured the situation would present itself again.

Cue the sound, roll the tape, quiet on the set, and.... ACTION!

Well, I don't mean to build it up like that, and I really do hate to let you down. But it was almost serendipity today as it was indeed Her that was cutting my hair today. For what better opportunity could I ask?

As I already knew, she's very sweet and today we talked a lot about Wellington and all the cool stuff going on lately. Turns out she actually made it to the Rugby Sevens and had a blast. She mentioned how her partner (there's that word again!) plays rugby and was supposed to be playing at the Sevens. But he's got malaria so he couldn't play but anyways she had a really good time. They've been dating for several years, from the sound of it, as she mentioned how she had seen him play at the Sevens in past tournaments.

Disappointing as it is to learn she has a boyfriend, I have to admit I'm really not surprised. She's quite a girl, and on top of that she looks a lot like Olivia D'Abo, so for those of you who know me you can easily see why I'm such a fool for her.

At one point she asked if it would be all right to use the thinning shears on my hair, to which I said yes. Of course, she could have also asked if she could take a blowtorch to my head, and I'd have said, "Oh, yes! Absolutely!" ("Is that a little too hot?" "Oh, no, my hair always smokes like that when it's on fire.")

Anyways, it's not like I've been obsessing over her for weeks on end, or just biding my time in between haircuts so I can maybe have a shot at getting her phone number. I've learned to let it go so it's all right. Plenty of fish in the sea, and all that!

And if nothing else she's such a nice person and each time I go in there I get to know her a little better, and that is cool. You can never have too many nice people in your life!

Onwards and upwards.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Wellytown


All right, it's been a while since I've dragged out the old slide projector. So, excuse me while I whip this out.*

These are some pictures from mid-December that I took while walking along Oriental Parade. That's a street that fronts the Wellington Harbour and starts downtown and winds its way to the east and up a hill to the Mount Victoria Overlook. It was a sublime day and the views were outstanding. It was also a weekday, so while everyone else was toiling away at work, I was able to enjoy the walk and the scenery it afforded in near-total solitude.

Normally I like being amongst people, but it was a nice contrast to the usual hustle and bustle of the CBD and the cafes in which I usually spend time. It's times like that I really feel like Wellington is a place I can call my own and I fall in love with it a little bit more each time I see it from a new angle.

If I can get around to it (dial-up just makes this a pain in the arse sometimes), I'll upload my pics from this past Wednesday, when I re-visited Red Rocks and actually hiked up the hill for some even better sights! I even got horribly sunburned again in the process. I'll do anything for my blogger faithful, haha.

And, in one of the many fine traditions established right here at Brooksie, the pictures are presented in backwards order. So, if you don't want to kill the suspense, flip to page 2 and start at the picture on the bottom right.

Actually, there are about 6-8 pics there from an even earlier visit to Te Papa and the Wainuiomata Overlook, the latter of which faces Wellington from the opposite side of the harbour.

But these are worth looking at, too - it's got ducks!

Enjoy.
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*Gratuitous Blazing Saddles reference.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Go To Hell

OK everybody, relax, I'm not really insulting you.

I'm actually inviting you!

Yes, come with me to Hell! You'll love it there, I promise.

They have all kinds of tasty combinations, like "Lust" which offers pepperoni, salami, ham, bacon and cabanossi. If that particular dish doesn't 'do it' for you (haha), then join me in this slice of "Greed", complete with double ham, double pineapple, and double cheese, baby.

There's something for all you gourmet sinners, too, like "Cursed" which features ham, onions, gherkins, honey mustard, chicken, bacon and it's all topped with smoked cheddar. You certainly would be cursed after just one bite of that - your dragon breath would clear a decent-sized room!

In case you're not up to speed yet (or if you haven't followed my links, you lazy sod - "Sloth", that's another style!), we're talking about pizza here.

And not just any pizza - the best damned pizza I've tasted in this entire country so far! I think I must have a bit of Garfield and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle (Michelangelo) in my blood, for my two very favourite foods on this earth are Lasagna and Pizza. I've rarely met a pizza I didn't like, so it's not exactly hard to please me in this category, but I just love the quality and quantity of ingredients that Hell has on offer with their pies.

In case your mouth isn't watering in sinful anticipation yet, just try and save room for one of their desserts, like the Kahlua and white chocolate cheesecake. Or one of their dessert pizzas, like "Unearthly": banana, chocolate, custard and berry coulis. With all that fruit, it's got to be healthy and it will surely cancel out all those calories you just consumed in that pizza!

Yeah, right.

Don't worry either, Mom, because they also have gluten-free bases as well!

This place is definitely worth a look and I hereby pledge that no visit here to see Brooksie will go without a trip - on me - to Hell!

(The one with the pizza, of course.)

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Submitted for your consideration

"Brooksie is a mild-mannered man, living out his utopian dream in the heavenly countryside of New Zealand. Little does he know, however, that what lurks beneath his very feet is a tumultuous chaos of fire and brimstone.

It seems ironically cruel that Brooksie would move halfway across the planet, risking his life by taking to the skies, only to end up being swallowed up by the very earth he has come to admire so much.

It is unfortunate as well that he flew his beloved cats all the way across the world to be here with him, worrying the entire time about their safety, when all he did was fly them to be right there with him, on the Doorstep To Hell.

Brooksie never knew what he was getting himself into, because like any other man he could not possibly have understood the alternate dimension of reality he had just torn into.

For Brooksie has entered a place where no sane man would dare go knowingly. He has just discovered... the Twilight Zone."

{cue eerie Twilight Zone theme}

Indulge me, if you will, and follow this link.

When you have finished reading the material there (don't worry, there isn't much), return to here and we'll pick up where we left off.

Go on, I'll wait right here for you.

Back? Okay, good.

I've only mentioned it in the titles of some of the pictures that I've taken, so most of you probably don't know the name of the subdivision in which I live here in New Zealand. It's Totara Park.

Did anything in particular jump out at you when you read that little blurb on Wikipedia about my beloved neighbourhood?

The American-themed streets? Well good on ya for noticing the coincidence (when I first drove through here to look for a flat and saw a street named "California Drive" I took that as a 'sign' - haha! get it?), but that neat little tidbit isn't what I'm talkin' bout.

You also wouldn't know this from the stub, but the stretch of the Hutt River that we are embanked upon is where they shot that cool scene from Fellowship Of The Ring wherein Arwen outruns the nine Ring-Wraiths and sends them all hurtling down the river in a giant tidal wave of horsey revenge.

No, it's this little line here, mentioned in a sort of 'oh, by the way...' fashion at the very end of the stub:

Most, if not all of the geological faults that run through New Zealand, run through Totara Park at some point or another.

Wanna run that one by me again, Slim???

You mean to tell me... I live in Earthquake Central?!

Yeah, let's not call it "Totara Park" anymore, but perhaps something more fitting like, "Come Here To Die" or "Kids Stop Jumping On Your Beds Or We'll All Get Sucked Into The Abyss"!

The fault-line thingy sure wasn't in the estate agent's brochure about my house! And they also failed to mention that Totara Park was Ground Zero for all of the tectonic plates in our corner of the Pacific Ocean in that very cool earthquake exhibit they've got goin' on at Te Papa. Sheesh, if I'm lucky I'll get to live the whole thing out right here in my living room!

I'll certainly be charging admission.

All right, that's enough whingeing out of me right now, but I remain a little disturbed by this revelation. If I didn't choose to live here, I could live dangerously close to the water and maybe be sucked under by a tsunami one day. Or I could live high up on one of the many hills in the region, safe from the watery reach of a tidal wave but perilously close to 'slip' territory, wherein the entire house (or just half of it) could go slip-slidin' away down the hillside on a river of mud. Wouldn't that be a fun way to sign off.

Ah, no matter what, you always put yourself in harm's way just stepping out your front door. And I am not one to live in constant fear of when or how I just might snuff it. In fact, to go down in an earthquake would actually be a pretty cool way to go. (Right, Atlantis?) Better than choking on a ham sandwich or earning a Darwin Award in some fashion!

Just the same, though, I think I'll get me one of them seismograph thingies. No, not one of those fancy electronic ones, with all the bells and whistles. I'm talking about the 2,000 year old ancient Chinese one, with all the frogs and dragons!



Don't make 'em like they used to!

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Terrible Truths Dept.


All right, so I have a man-purse.

Rather than start this out by delineating some defensive argument wherein I try to justify the carrying around of said handy garment, I’ll just come right out and cop to it.

At least I’m in good company. “My boy”, Michael Wilbon, is rumoured to also be the possessor of a man-purse. And we all know about Joey Tribbiani’s famed dalliance with a man bag, as he was seen (and mocked) carrying this infamous tote in the episode, “The One With Joey's Bag”.

So, in the company of such fellow studs as these, I will actually make the case for this being cool.

(Haha, ‘case’, get it? Yeah, unfunny, I know.)

First, when I carry this thing around, it is nearly always in the CBD of Wellington. So I tend to blend in with the rest of the urban, working-class, brainy crowd. Granted, I don’t notice many other such man-satchels in deployment, but there are plenty of guys with briefcases at least. Also, my overall look really isn’t that metrosexual at all, given that the only piece of gear I’ve got equipped that would fit this category is the man-purse. I know, it’s a big-ticket item when it comes to how it influences my overall 'metrosexual-ness', but I don’t sport (or own) any of those flare-collared nightclub shirts, nor do I wear ANY form of eye-liner or makeup. And no pinky rings or flashy silver bracelets, either – I’m not a wannabe hipster, by crikey.

Secondly, well the damned thing is just too handy. I can’t be bothered stuffing my jeans pockets with car keys, a wallet, my chapstick, and loose bills and change. If I owned more cargo pants then I’d not need look anywhere else to stash my personal effects. But until I trade my valise for a few new pairs of the latest in cargo gear from The Gap, the manbag remains my best option. I guess technically it didn't become a 'purse' until I started keeping my keys and stuff in it.

Thirdly, it’s not really a purse. I haven’t actually purchased something from Mont Blanc or Louis Vuitton that is purposely designed for the metrosexual man on the go. I wish I could afford to be that stylin’.

No, the garment in question is actually the carrying case for my keyboard. I realize that admitting to this potentially portrays me in a worse light than if I had ‘just’ a man-purse. Not only does this case resemble one of those, with its long black strap and black square frame, but its sole purpose is for the transport of my word processor.

What’s the name of this geeky, chic gadget of mine? Why, it’s the AlphaSmart 3000. I first read about one of these babies in “No Plot? No Problem!”, the book penned by the creator of the famous NaNoWriMo, Chris Baty. NaNoWriMo is shorthand for National Novel Writing Month, which happens every November. I noticed the coincidence between this tradition and Blogspot's push to have its blogger faithful post every day last November, and thought that was cool.

If you’ll permit me to brag on this contraption a bit, it runs on just 3 AA batteries – they’ve lasted well over a year and a half, with the little battery power icon still at full strength! It displays four lines of text and has eight total files which each hold a sizable amount of data.

Back in mid-2005 I decided to jump start the creative thought processes by crashing into November with the intention of writing a novel. It was going to be a lot of fun, and my purchase of the AlphaSmart 3000 is tangible proof of this.

I never did write the novel, partly because I could never settle on a story idea that really drew me in. The point of the exercise isn’t to write something worthy of being published, to be sure, but at least something that was coherent and fun to compose. It’s something I’ll certainly pursue at some stage later on.

But what short-circuited my plans to go through with NaNoWriMo that year was the beginning of my obsession with New Zealand. Some of the many books I purchased while sipping macchiatos at the Barnes & Noble Café back in the Newz (I wanna shout out to my peeps Vicky, Robyn, Laura, Ginger, Ann, Liz, and Jay – holla!) were travel books about NZ, and you could say I never looked back.

So, the novel-writing energies were converted into trip-planning ones, and you see now the fruits of those labours. I don’t regret it one bit, of course, and NaNoWriMo will always be there.

Plus, the AlphaSmart 3000 is still going strong with those original 3 Duracells, natch.

I’m only a little self-conscious about this man-purse, mainly because I tend to hit the same 3 or 4 spots every time I’m in the CBD. I may be known as the ‘man-purse guy’ or worse, especially because most of the staff in these places have seen what it truly contains. I’ve actually gotten a few compliments on the keyboard, as it’s served as an icebreaker on several occasions. Maybe they all think I’m a food critic or something since I’m often writing while I’m eating or drinking in a lot of these places.

NB: As I type, a guy has just sat down at the table next to me with a no-doubt-about-it man-purse. He’s with a hot babe, so score one for the men purses! Odds are, however, he isn’t carrying around a battery-powered word processor in there.

At least I know I’m nowhere near as conspicuous as I was that one Sunday when I went to Starbucks. It was right before I had a shift at the after-hours, which is about a fifteen-minute drive from downtown Welly. Since it was on a Sunday and was cramping my usual coffee-sipping/newspaper-reading style, I figured I’d make the most of it and at least start my day off with the same ritual.

What I didn’t realize until too late, however, was how I had dressed. I usually go to work wearing a long sleeve shirt with the sleeves rolled up, a tie, and slacks. And, of course, I was carrying the black "murse" that stars in this post.

So who else does such a get-up remind you of? Somebody that you might see on Sundays, usually traveling in the company of a similarly-dressed young white male with smiles on their faces? Occasionally knocking on your door, asking if you’ve heard the Good News? That’s right: I looked like a Mormon. Or any other Christian on a mission on any given Sunday.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that! But that is definitely not me, and I became acutely aware of this as I noticed people’s reactions to me. I saw - more than once - people flash me uneasy smiles and avert their eyes, giving me a wide berth. Perhaps they were just reacting to the keyboard, but I had to wonder if it was because they were afraid I was going to ask them to join my church.

To my credit, I didn’t ask for converts. Just money.

What, you think all those coffees at Starbucks come cheap?!