13 October 2007

Comment -- "Moderation is for monks"

Absolutely goddamn right.

First, I'd like to thank everyone for the birthday wishes. I appreciate, too, the multitude of advice, philosophies, and general observations on getting older. But I think my favourite one came from my uncle Kent: "Take big bites; moderation is for monks." The sayings "live life to the fullest" and "enjoy each day like it's your last" are so common that they've lost their punch. The "moderation" maxim turned on its ear is alluring, not only in its message, but in the way it's worded: direct, creative, refreshing. And shunning moderation--I think--is a pretty good idea, especially if one is born with a bit of common sense. Putting your life unnecessarily at risk is taking a big bite, but it's also stupid. For example, driving blindfolded down the wrong way of a one-way street at speed is probably a big thrill, but it is also beyond the boundaries of what most people might consider an option for something to do on a Tuesday afternoon. And it is personal boundaries that determine what "moderation" is.

I'm reminded of a (I think) Velveeta commercial that aired back in the late 90s. Some cowboys are sitting around a camp fire, and the narrator says something to the effect of, "Some nights, after weeks of hard work, me and the boys like to go a little crazy . . . by putting two kinds of cheese on the cheeseburgers! Yeehaw!" This ad always made me giggle, but it illustrates that "big bites" for some are not so big for others. Skydiving, running with bulls at Pamploma--big bites, I'd say, on all counts. Truly pushing beyond moderation. But this doesn't mean you have to leap out of an airplane to experience a thrill.

Or does it? Actually, now I'm not so sure. What do you think? If moderation is a fence, and we all have one, do we need merely to peek over once in awhile? Or do we all need to achieve certain shared experiences (the skydive, the bulls, hallucinogenic drugs) before we can really claim to be taking a bite? To make it even more complicated, is our tendency to take risks genetically encoded? Did my family name survive because my ancestors said things like, "Titanic? Sounds nice, but you go ahead." or "No, actually, I don't think I can swim to France."

While we ponder, I'm going to drink another pot of coffee, go for a run, and then maybe learn to surf (it's something I've always wanted to do).

Thanks for the advice, Kent. Here's to indulgence.

PS: for those who want to further explore the myth of moderation, check out Barbara Holland's books The Joy of Drinking and Endangered Pleasures

05 October 2007

Happy Birthday to Me

I've had quite a few people berate (well, berate is a strong word. "Remind" is closer to the truth) me about my lack of posting in these past few months. My excuse is the same as any other blogger who suddenly falls silent for weeks: I've been busy. Yet since this is the end of this blogging adventure, I found I had to post one last time for the sake of closure, if nothing else.

30 is the new 20. This is what I've been telling people. I'm hoping that if I say it long enough, I'll begin to believe it. Rather than join the echoing chorus chanting "I really don't feel any different than I did five years ago," I'm going so far as to say 30 is rad--as long as you haven't given up, that is. This seems to be the obstacle folks can't hurdle. People are so afraid of the idea of 30 that they fall prey to one if its biggest fallacies: that when you turn 30 you can't keep up with the kids.


You know how fashions tend to repeat themselves? That because you're defining the styles that your children will mimic. Cool, eh?

Right. Off to get pissed. Be well friends.


11 July 2007

11 July -- Jamie's sister is a smart cookie

Recently, Jamie's mother, father, and younger brother flew to England. There they will see Jamie's sister, Molly, graduate from Cambridge University's Master's Program, an event Jamie truly wishes he could attend. Molly, somewhat unfairly, has not received the same attention at graduation ceremonies as her older siblings. For example, at her high school graduation Jamie was the only representative from the Love family (and was later shunned--though quite rightly--in favor of a friend's party). Unfortunately for Molly, this was one more than the number of Loves attending her college graduation.

So when it came to her completing graduate school, Molly's parents were not going to let anything stop them. Indeed, they are flying halfway (literally) around the world to witness this remarkable achievement (although Molly will forever contend that it took her graduating from one of the oldest and most prestigious universities on the planet to garner such attention). And while Karen, Darrell, and Peter are in the mix, her other brothers and sister will have to cheer from the sidelines. Libby will be busy hydrating in the Kansas summer, while Jamie huddles by the fire in a futile effort to stave off the chill of New Zealand's winter. John, true to form, has decided he will be in Jerusalem, where it's safe, instead of in England where the terrorists live. All, however, are very proud of Molly.

22 June 2007

22 June -- Going for a Run

Sunday, Jamie will run 21 kilometres for the sheer hell of it; for fun, as it were. Jamie's idea of fun is waking up at 6am to run into a head wind in the middle of winter. Oh, and he's pays money to do it. What the f*** is wrong with this boy?

Wish him luck.

22 May 2007

22 May--A Good Night Out

It became clear to Jamie very early in the morning that he should have had more to eat the night before--more than onion baji, anyway. For the uninitiated, onion baji is an Indian delicacy whereby one dips strips of onion in a batter spiced with cumin, curry, taragon, and chilis, and then chucks the pieces in the deep fryer. It should not, therefore, be eaten when a) one wishes to meet a girl, or b) when one plans on spending the rest of the evening drinking beer. Jamie was on course for the latter.

The night began--as many nights do--with an innocent drink after work. Jamie was celebrating a successful presentation on workplace sustainability (recycling, energy reduction, etc.), and decided he needed a drink. Just one, of course--just one.

Twenty minutes later he's downed two pitchers of pilsner and is walking around Mighty Mighty pretending to be a member of the wait staff. He, and two of his friends from work, Hannah and Liam, soon discovered that the world is a more fascinating place when you have a camera. Please take a moment to witness our night of self destruction.

17 May 2007

17 May--A Good Pace

It has been 9 days since Jamie last posted. In fact, the time between posts has become longer with each passing week. It appears Jamie did not pace himself very well at the start. He should have begun more relaxed, found his pace about 1/4 of the way through, then kicked out a fast finish--a little like what he's hoping to do for the Wellington Half Marathon.

While it won't be the first half marathon Jamie's run--it will, in fact, be his second--he hopes to better his time. Unfortunately, this means running. A lot. Continuously. And if he runs with the same consistency with which he blogs, the whole event might take awhile.

08 May 2007

08 May--Meditation

Yesterday evening, Jamie was invited to attend a meeting introducing people to meditation. While not one who regularly meditates--read: ever meditates--Jamie was still interested to participate in a discussion on the topic. As an academic, he had studied Psychology (along with other disciplines in the Arts) and Religion. He was also a Catholic until the age of 17, at which time he decided this whole religion thing just didn't really have a leg to stand on (Jamie spent much of his late teens and early 20s a very angry atheist, but has recently calmed down). So he regarded the evening as a chance to learn more about a subject he often dismissed.

However, as the evening unfolded, Jamie found himself listening to people talk on a subject matter he ended up being very familiar with. He has read books on Taoism and enjoys the idea that the only thing that exists is the current moment. He's read Lao Tzu (on whose teachings Taoism is founded), and smiles when the philosopher reminds t that everything has a use--even a pile of rubbish. Among other philosophies, theosophies, and thinkers, Jamie is familiar with the Gnostic Gospels, the Old and New Testaments, William James, Carl Jung, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita--all of which comment at least briefly on the idea of cognitive peace. And while he is not well-versed in some tomes (except perhaps the biblical ones, for which he blames his parents), he is all the while informed.

The speaker's name, to begin with, was Saronya (a name Jamie had to fight not to mispronounce as "Sayonara"), which is a Sanskrit word. Fair enough. Sanskrit is one of the many official languages of India, not to mention very, very old. It made sense that topics as ancient as meditation would have some affiliation with their linguistic counterparts. Yet some things didn't quite fit--there was misinformation afoot.

Saronya, who dressed only in white, explained that this particular discipline of meditation (Ishaya's Ascension) was focused on "quieting the mind's chatter and employing the attitudes of praise, gratitude, love, and compassion." No surprise there. However, when she mentioned that the founder "invented" this technique in 1988, Jamie's mind began to chatter. And when she further explained that the founder was compelled to invent this technique because, in an epiphany, it "was time for these attitudes to be in the world," Jamie's mind got a little louder. But when she said "the great thinker Alfred Maslow said we have a right to be 'whole' beings," Jamie's mind could not keep to itself.

"Um, yeah. Sorry to interrupt," Jamie said politely, "But Maslow also said that you can't get to the self-enlightenment stage without first fulfilling basic needs. His philosophy was based on a hierarchy of principles and actions, not mere thoughts."

To his surprised, Saronya gently side-stepped Jamie's comment, quickly turning back to the attitudes of ascension. But for Jamie, the rest of the talk fell apart. He could not help but draw correlations between her points and other religions and philosophies: how we need praise as children (Freud), using love and compassion to quell frustration (gnostics, Buddhism), and quieting the mind for mental clarity (Taoism, Buddhism). While putting them all together was neat, it was not worth the $500 she was asking for further sessions.

At the end of the discussion, Saronya turned to Jamie and asked, "So what do you think? Will you be joining us?"

Jamie replied, "No, I'm fine actually. I'm just fine."

02 May 2007

2 May -- An Average Day

Today is an average work day: Jamie has spent a total of 40 minutes on the train. He took 30 minutes to enjoy a cup of coffee at the French bakery across the road before walking into the office. He read the news--for 30 minutes. He has since spent a grand total of 1 hour doing actual work (writing code, Photoshopping and uploading images, amending PDFs, tracking changes). Between work, he has spent 3 hours in meetings. Between work and meetings, he has spent 45 minutes waiting for meetings to begin (he is waiting for one now). He ate lunch for 15 minutes (he used what was left of his lunch hour strolling Wellington's freshly dampened footpaths). He used the toilet for 8 minutes (aggregated, not all at once). He is 29. The average life span of a Western male is 75 years. If, for the next 46 years (taking into account weekends and a much-deserved 2-week holiday per year) Jamie worked an average day he would have: wasted 34,500 hours in meetings, worked on something interesting for 11,500 hours, twiddled his thumbs for 8,625 hours waiting for a meeting to start, ridden 7,666 hours on the train, and enjoyed only 2,875 precious hours eating soup. He would have spent 1,533 hours in the toilet.

However depressing these figures might seem, Jamie is not fazed. He is, instead, preparing the invoice.

24 April 2007

24 April -- Awake and Aging

The terms 'aging' and 'growing old' carry more negative connotations than positive ones. Used as adjectives in throw-away phrases such as "the aging infrastructure" and "that joke is getting old" reinforces the claim that the Western English lexicon treats these as unfavourable conditions. In fact, if one were to try to say anything uplifting while using these exemplars of existential exits, then one would have to tack on a modifier such as "gracefully", or construct a flattering simile ("like a fine wine," etc.)--especially when describing people. People don't like being thought of as useless or of limited use. It upsets them. Indeed, it no doubt expedites the very process they're trying to overcome (or to at least ignore). If nobody needs you, what's the point of sticking around (unless, of course, you're sticking around out of sheer stubbornness and the dark desire to piss off everybody else [which is fair enough, actually. Some of the oldest individuals in the worlds are fueled only by hatred and revenge. It demands some admiration.])?

How frustrating it must be for those who are aging and growing old to witness the very actions that put them in rest homes being reinforced by the obscenely young. Junior does a poopie doodie and the room explodes with applause like he's just back-flipped onto daddy's shoulders. But God forbid grandpa lets slide a little squirt; he'd be checked in to Larkspur before he could say 'Depends.' Junior draws a picture with brown crayons and drool, and mommy has it framed. Grandpa's handwriting gets squiggly, and he's medicated. There is something about coming full circle that seems to cause anxiety for those in the middle of the loop. Those at the beginning and end, however, are just happy to be here.

Surely there is something we can learn from the aging and old. There must be some wisdom we can glean from those for whom stories trump bills in order of importance. When you hands are un-still and your blue eyes fade; when dinner's at four and the skin on your head sleeps gently down your face; when your life and your memories meet each other before you and shake hands, it is time to sit down and give someone a little advice. For if you wait too long, you will find yourself in the arms of your mother--awake and learning; aging and growing old.

12 April 2007

12 April

Morning screamed into existence with a shrill southerly, but hours later was calm; its howling subsided and stillness all that remained. In the French bakery on The Terrace, a blonde barrista wipes a strand of hair from her face and opens a window facing the footpath. Two businessmen carrying umbrellas walk briskly past, but her eyes don't catch them. Instead, she looks upward and over the buildings across the street. The hills rise in the distance, atop which trees catch the last cold breezes as the wind changes direction. She puts her hands on her hips and closes her eyes. A shot of sunlight breaks through a hole in the clouds, sweeping a few windows before it is quashed. Summer has all but fully lost its grip now, and the decent into Autumn is met with little resistance. We are tired, and there is something alluring about spending the dark evenings together--how mugs clank in a quiet pub or the sound of rain when you're next to a slow-paced fire--that makes losing the light no bad, not so bad at all.

10 April 2007

10 April--Don't mean to be political, but . . .

Today, Jamie stumbled upon a very disturbing blog. It relays the story of Professor Walter F. Murphy, emeritus of Princeton University. Upon arriving at the airport on his way to attend an academic conference, he was detained and told he could not board. After a brief conversation with the check-in clerk, he learned he was denied because he had given a speech critical of George W. Bush and was subsequently added to a "terrorist watch list."

Professor Murphy is a hero of the Korean War.

George W. Bush dodged the draft.

Read more here.

06 April 2007

6 April

Jamie taste-tested two fair trade organic coffees, and wrote about them on his other blog, Duck and Cover. In his opinion, the test is scientifically sound, but you may want to check for yourself. Read it here.

02 April 2007

2 April--Hidden Treasure

While deleting old photos and videos from his phone, Jamie discovered this little easter egg taken by his brother, John, during his visit over Christmas.

30 March 2007

30 March

Clouds cling lightly to the heavens, and there is no wind in the capitol city. The train on the Paraparaumu line skates around Titahi Bay and into Wellington Central Station. It is Friday, and the harbour is calm in the morning sun.

It is true people come and go. We are born. We die. What happens in between, however, is not irrelevant. In fact, it is all we have. Does it really matter if you buy the car? Does it matter if you make the light? Do you really need to go to work today? Your friend leaves Tuesday, for instance, and you haven't seen your brother in ages. Didn't your girlfriend mention something about wanting to have lunch in town--you know, like you used to do? You didn't return your mother's phone call. You drank too much, and you suddenly realise what it means to act your age.

Some days there is just enough time to notice there is just enough time.

In a kowhai tree, two fat sparrows preen, and their feathers puff and jitter against fat, round bodies. One is larger than the other, and the smaller one stretches its tail to reveal clean, white under-feathers. A woman in the apartment across the alley opens her window to pour out the last of her tea. The drink doesn't fall straight, but immediately spreads: unhinging itself in descent, widening, as if to stretch out wings and carry on.

25 March 2007

25 March

Jamie spent a few days on Waiheke island attending a wedding for a friend of Ami's. The wedding itself, on a beach that was at the base of a very steep slope, was disorganised and particularly accident prone. However, one redeeming feature was the food.

Jamie had heard of a hangi, but had never seen, let alone experienced one. A hangi, as any Kiwi will tell you, is a Maori cooking tradition whereby rocks are taken from a bonfire and piled into a deep hole. The food is then placed upon the rocks, wrapped in blankets, and buried. Eight hours later, the food is cooked and piping hot.

Hangi food generally consists of different meats, potatos, kumara, and maybe a pumpkin or two. Hearty food. And wrapped in with the blankets that cover the food is also the odd leaf of cabbage used to add moisture (one of the guests remarked to Jamie that "there is always cabbage at a hangi." An observation of both the food and the relatively large number of very old women hovering around the food).

Not knowing what to expect, Jamie piled his plate high with venison, pork, beef, spuds--well, everything really. The meat was incredible. Moist and crumbling apart like cake. But when he tasted the potato, the sensation was, well, different. He imagined he might accidentally have chosen the accidental car tire chucked in with the food. The he took a bite of the pumkin. Another tire.

"How's your food?" Ami asked at one stage.

"Um, good." He answered, then added. "Does anyone else's meal taste like car?"

"Yeah," said one of the guests. "It's an acquired taste."

19 March 2007

19 Mar

Jamie has kept himself quite busy lately. Two of his projects that have just gone public are a trading website based loosely on newspaper want ads (view), and a collaborative blog about music and pop culture penned with the help of his long-time friend, Dakin (view).

14 March 2007

14 March

A blast of southern air blew across New Zealand, chilling the country from Bluff Hill to Cape Reinga. And while it isn't winter, per se, the shift in weather was a very convincing argument of what is, inevitably, to come. Some weeks ago, during the last dry days of Wellington's Indian summer, Jamie had the rare foresight to order a shipment of firewood. It arrived today. When Jamie, Ami, and Nick arrived home there, in a pile before the garage, was three cubic metres of wood, a mixture of dense macracarpa and softer pine. One perfect for catching from fuel as thin as newspaper; the other slow-burning, letting go so gradually embers glow still at 6am, when Jamie's alarm sounds.

It takes the three of them a mere 30 minutes to move the wood from the driveway and into the wood shed. With each armful, their heads fill with ideas for the first fire of the season. Jamie dreams of pumpkin soup and apple cider. Ami imagines the easy comfort of slipping on a woolly jumper and knitting a few lines in front of the blaze. Nick thinks of women. Nick usually thinks of women, which is why he and Jamie get along so well.

After dinner (Nick cooked quiche), the three of them sit around the new fire and talk about religion, time, quantum entanglement (briefly), New Zealand cinema, and ukuleles. They talked like they had not spoken for weeks; like they were newly alight; like it had been a year since the air had felt so clean.

12 March 2007

12 March

For the past three weeks, Jamie has played host to a friend of his, Nick. The situation is somewhat unfortunate, if a little amusing. In short, Nick was cheating on his girlfriend. She found out when she, Nick, and the fling were all in the same footrace together which concluded with both women screaming at Nick while he hid behind a bush. So Nick was kicked out of the house and is now spending quality time in Jamie's spare room.

Tonight, Nick, who's decided the best course of action is to leave the country--a decision with which Jamie wholly agrees--and so feels he must lighten his baggage. One example of this is unloading boxes of books onto Jamie's floor. Thus far, the evening has been spend poring over graphic novels, compendiums of fantasy illustrations, fix-it manuals, and the odd piece of vampire literature. All in all, a rich and rewarding evening--for Jamie, if not for Nick.

Though it all deteriorated when Nick's ex rang him and decided now was a good time to be angry--very, very angry. After about half an hour of shouting, crying, and more shouting, Nick returns to the lounge. Jamie is just finishing a book called Dream Makers: Six Fantasy Artists at Work, but decides to read a few pages over again in hopes Nick will not tell him how the call went. After three week of living with Nick, Jamie is sure he knows very well how the call went. Besides, he's not deaf--the goddamn neighbors could comment on how the call went. So Jamie pushes his face close to a large sketch of a scantily clad woman holding an impossibly huge sword and pretends to be very interested (which is not difficult if you knew the picture in question).

Yet there is no stopping Nick. He begins with a heavy sigh, then proceeds to recount, word for word, what was said. Realising Nick shows no sign of letting up, Jamie decides now is a very good time to write a blog entry.

11 March 2007

10 March

Sometimes it is futile waiting for technology. Jamie sits before Google Docs and Spreadsheets awaiting a blank screen. Beirut plays on the stereo, and he corrects his spelling as he tries to describe how it makes him want to sing.

There are revelations not worth recording.

At 3am, no matter where one sits, the air feels heavy. But still one may hear an echo of laughter from the other room, a slight giggle of encouragement, very similar to the day when you stepped out of the car to fix the windshield wipers in the middle of the night on the way back to Wichita. There was only darkness. Of course, you should have replaced them before you left home, but here you are, slouched on the shoulder of highway 70 piecing together fragments of your windshield. Vision is imperative. This stretch of Kansas you spent your youth on is suddenly trecherous and there is nothing more important than coming home. With a small penlight, you move about the freeway searching for rubber wings.

There is a girl. There is always a girl.

You find the sliver you were looking for, there in the tiniest light, the only light.

08 March 2007

7 March

The wind in Wellington is easing, and rain has been scarce since early February. Autumn is coming, and the entire city seems to hold its breath in apprehension.

Unlike the anticipation felt in Spring when the desire to lunge one's self fully forward is undeniable, Autumn suspends us. We know winter is coming, but we're not quite ready to see it yet. There is a mixture of dread and disappointment, like the feeling a boy gets after chasing a girl all Summer: He stands at the train station ready to board, and she waves goodbye. Will he kiss her, or will he forget her forever? The scene plays out forever: the boy chooses an infinite number of possibilities an infinite number of times, but by the same argument, he is infinitely on the platform with one sneaker in the door, suspended in the season of farewell.

01 March 2007

1 Mar--Typhoid?

As Jamie sits in the French bakery on the Terrace, he thinks about typhoid.


He reads a headline in The Dominion Post about a typhoid outbreak in Porirua, where he lives.


Jamie remembers inoculation against polio (mostly because they poked him in the bum) and the flu, but not against typhoid, that was something young children in Dickens books suffered from. He takes a sip of his coffee and lets his gaze drift out the window. How very literary it would be, he decides, to catch typhoid. He might dress in heavy blue robes during the day and move about at a slow shuffle. At night, he will moan and let the burning illness focus his mind on what he's never done, and then he'll moan some more.

Jamie suddenly remembers that one of the symptoms of typhoid is diarrhoea. Perhaps he will not catch typhoid, after all. No, indeed he won't. Instead, he invites readers to listen to a song by Sufjan Stevens (thank you, Dakin). Note--no video, just music.

28 February 2007

28 Feb--Death by Caffeine

According to this source, Jamie would have to drink 105 cups of coffee in a sitting before croaking.

21 February 2007

21 Feb

Jamie sits on the couch in his lounge and peers out the window. Just beyond his the boundary of his back yard there is a hill. Atop the hill is another residence which looks directly into Jamie's lounge. Often when he looks out the window, Jamie will see the occupants of the hill house looking back. Never in a spooky way, but simply as a someone momentarily lost in thought and gazing into space, or in most cases gazing into Jamie's living room. And there are, of course, the awkward moments when both Jamie and the woman on the hill decide to glance out their respective windows at the same time. For less than a second, they are two people looking at each other: completely natural. Yet there is something uncomfortable about it, something in the gut that forces both to quickly look just a little bit to the left as if to say, "Nope. Didn't see you there. I was actually concentrating on the aerial."

19 February 2007

17 Feb--Aqua Teen Hunger Force

Jamie and his brother, John, have loved the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force since its inception 7 years ago. So when they learned that the creators were somehow implicated in a "terror" plot, they were both rolling with laughter. However, for a more serious analysis of the situation and how it relates to the East coast of America's Puritanical roots, read this article.

(image stolen from www.boingboing.net. If you're from BB, and you don't want it posted here, just let me know.)

16 Feb--Notes from a Travel Journal, pt. 5

Breakfast on the beach again. Another scorcher of a morning. My toes are showing wear: blisters from jandals and Tevas are making it increasingly difficult to walk.

We had to be off the island at 2:00 to take Katrina to Nelson. Crossing at high tide was a test of strength and endurance. What appeared to be a gentle flow into an estuary was, in fact, a very fierce flow into an estuary. Katrina and Susanne loaded up the sea kayaks with emtpy LPG bottles, rubbish, laundry, and all of our gear. Katrina and I were to row to the other side with all the gear, then I had to row back to get Ami. Simple, no? It seemed easy enough on the way over, but kayaking back alone was downright frightening. I paddled until my shoulders burned, but for a moment it did nothing more than keep me in the same place--the outgoing tide sweeping through the small channel was very adamant that I be swept out to sea. I feel like I just made it. Kayaking back with Ami, I let her do all the work.

15 Feb--Notes from a Travel Journal, pt. 4

Jesus Christ, it's hot this morning. We eat breakfast and drink coffee in the morning sun. Katrina and her sister, Susanne, talk between bursts of bickering and song.

Late morning, we scatter--each finding a place to read. I hang in the hammocks among the pine, while Ami sits in the beach grass reading about the history of the Middle East. We only join up again when it is time to eat and drink.

Clouds come, and with them a slight rain. I fall asleep listening as it settles into the trees. When I awake, it is time to eat again.

16 February 2007

14 Feb--Notes from a Travel Journal, pt. 3

Awoke to dawn chorus as I have every day on the trip. Fell back to sleep soon after its conclusion, re-awakening some hours later to pack up the tent.

Walked part of the Abel Tasman. It took 1.5 hours to walk to Appletree Bay where we swam and lay in the sun for another 1.5 hours. Hiking out, we picked up people’s trash.

Have seen the following wildlife so far:

  • Starfish—low tide in Marahau

  • Crabs—same, and on Abel Tasman

  • Eels—two of them as the tide came in, wetlands, Marahau

  • Pukeko—Marahau, little Kaiteriteri

Spent some more time on little Kaiteriteri before meeting up with Katrina.

To get to Katrina’s island, we had to load up kayaks with groceries and row to Jackett island off the coast of Motueka.

The evening played out like a melodrama, or some dark comedy that I wish I had the wherewithal to write. Maybe soon.

Relieved that we have no place to go for the next three days. Isolated on this giant sandbar, the North Island on the horizon, I have to focus very hard to believe there is a world other than than the sand under my legs and the sea everywhere else.

13 February 2007

13 Feb--Notes from a Travel Journal, pt. 2

Day 2

note: getting dark and more difficult to write.

  • drove out of Okiwi toward Nelson and met up with Auntie Katrina (Ami's "aunt." more of a friend of Ami's mother, really). we'll stay on her island tomorrow, but today we needed noting more than to lounge about on the beach. i've become an avid beach bum since leaving KS.

  • drove to Kaiteriteri and swam around the rocks. absolutely puffed afterward. Ami is a much better swimmer and generally more fit. must, must, must do more exercise!

  • drove on to Marahau and found a spot for the tent. tide was going out so we grabbed a couple of beers and walked out to the water. had to tip-toe as there were hundreds of starfish huddled in the small salty pools left by the outgoing tide. looking closer, tiny crabs, snails, and other creatures of which we don't know the names.

  • Ami just arrived and told me to come look at the stars.

  • A giant orange moon rises on the horizon, its reflection animated in the sea. in another part of the sky, comet mcnaught sails quietly out.

12 February 2007

12 Feb--Notes from a travel journal, pt. 1

Jamie and Ami spent a week moving between beaches in the northern South Island. What follows are notes from Jamie's journal.

Day 1

first of all, don't pack sleepy. after a mere 3 hour kip we tried to get up and pack at 5am. we managed to forget the following:

  • coffee plunger

  • cups

  • gas stove

  • spoons

  • bowls

  • deck chairs

A dinner of bread and hummus sitting on the beach, while nice, was bitter sweet knowing we'd be chewing coffee tomorrow morning and eating dry breakfast cereal.

  • Camped at Okiwi Bay in the Rai Valley. A bit of a boatie community with most, if not all, of the residents avid fishermen (much overfishing is had by all). The camp site is quaint, but rocky and not good for those with tents . . . which is us.

  • found a nice, private beach east along the road accessible at low tide. great for looking into shallow tide pools, tiny worlds shimmering away.

02 February 2007

1 Feb--A Day at the Races, pt.2

James Love Trentham Wellington New Zealand
Horse racing boasts a long, sometimes dubious, never boring history. Across the globe, from the Kentucky Derby to the Melbourne Cup, there is one unifying element; one signature sight that has defined the track for generations: hats. The races would be little more than booze-laden gamblefests were it not for fancy hats. It's an undeniable fact, and one Jamie was all too aware of. Unfortunately, Jamie did not own a hat.

The panic set in early. Choosing the right suit was easy. He had a three-piece wool number he found at an op-shop (note to outsiders: "op-shop" is Kiwi for thrift store) a couple of years ago that set him back a mere $15. But it would all fall short if he was unable to tie it together.

Luckily, Wellington had a hatter. Not a hat shop or a clothing store with hats--a proper hatter complete with the little machine that stretches hats for the perfect fit. He had been inside for less than a minute when he saw it: on a high shelf, atop myriad versions of itself--his hat. It had to be.

"You after the 'pork pie,' mate?" called the hatter.

He even liked the name.

01 February 2007

31 Jan--A Day at the Races, pt. 1

What a crummy week, Jamie thinks. And it was only Wednesday. He raises his hand to the bridge of his nose and squeezes hard--a small pinch to distract him from pressures elsewhere.

"I need a distraction," he says outloud. His fellow Web designers peek over their monitors.

"I could sing a song," Liam offers, and proceeds to belt out a few bars of Maneater.

"No, I mean I need a REAL distraction, like what beer does for you." Jamie said, and as soon as the words were out of his mouth, an email from Ami arrived in his inbox.

Just received two tickets to the Wellington Classic. Free booze, free food--fancy a day at the races?

Jamie smiles. That's more like it.

30 January 2007

29 Jan--Jamie and his terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

The day had been challenging enough without forgetting the house alarm code, Jamie thought. But there he was, standing perfectly still, hoping the breeze blowing in wouldn't trip the motion sensors. With his fingers hovering over the keypad (3425? 2543?), he quietly remembered how long his day had been, beginning with leaving his mobile on his bedside table.

Then Ami decided she would take the car to work. Jamie wanted to take the car to work. "No," Ami said, "You can take the train." Jamie stood on the platform and listened to the voice telling commuters that all the trains today would be delayed . . . indefinitely.

At work, a "very important project" landed on Jamie's desk. "We need these projects displayed as Gantt charts by 3pm. We heard you knew Photoshop." When middle managers and project managers say "Photoshop," they mean "miracle-working." They continued, "We saw someone do it once in PowerPoint, but we need to print this out and have it take up the whole wall." No matter how many times Jamie explained the concept of bitmaps and pixels and their relative inflexibility, they wouldn't budge.

Jamie had to work through lunch. By the end of the day, a knot the size of a lemon had formed beneath his shoulder blade (on a side note, he now truly empathised with Ami).

Then Jamie couldn't find the right book for Ami's dad's birthday. The extra time he took going to a third bookstore made him late for his train home. He boarded the 6:00 and waited for it to pull out. After it had moved 500 meters, it stopped, and reversed back to the station. "We're sorry," the announcement apologised, "but all trains are delayed . . . indefinitely." Without a mobile, Jamie was forced to hunt down a pay phone. He found one tucked behind the station's pub, near the rubbish bins, but soon discovered it wouldn't take his credit card. He rummaged through his pocked and found some change. Ami didn't answer. She was at a going away party for a friend. Sitting in a loud bar, she never heard it ring. He left a message, but lost his change for it.

And now it was 8:00. He was standing in his hallway staring at the alarm's keypad, his mind a complete blank. He imagined he might be able to sneak, spy-like, into his room to recover his phone and thus ring Ami for the code, but realised he'd never make it. No--he was lucky to have walked this far without tripping the sensors. 1325? 2531? He leaned his head against the wall and wished he was on a beach in Australia.

25 January 2007

24 Jan--We Lost a Friend

The Sand Castle

            --for Chris

Fore and aft cannons: good idea. Defense

against the sea (then, you said, "the enemy")--

unpredictable, yes, but at least you see it coming.

With colour and a grin and a look like the look of a man

who's been there, you move earth as though you knew it.

Of course there is going to be a pool. A white spindle shell

too shy to mimic oceans, beer bottle forests. Planted

into your drawbridge one leaf of grass: not a thing

built for lifting, it's thin frame holds and with the tide remains

a buoyant, wholly remarkable life.

23 January 2007

20 Jan--So unfair; so natural

A day begins with the best intentions. Hour upon hour, however, it loses its grip and crumbles into night. As long as there is time there will never be enough.

19 January 2007

19 Jan--Carrying on the zombie thread . . .

If one is serious about the imminent threat of zombies (for those living in Kansas, I fear it may be too late. Seek shelter. Buy bullets. Steer clear of churches--they gather there.), one should begin by visiting this website.

18 January 2007

18 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 5

. . . which is why Wellington employs the zombie death squad. Thanks, ZDS!

17 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 4

Few things are more unnerving than a zombie in undying pursuit. . .

16 January 2007

16 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 3

Sometimes Jamie finds himself shopping for miso and fresh tofu at an Asian food store when he is suddenly struck with the urge to hit a few balls at the driving range. Lucky for him, Wellington has just the spot.

15 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt.2

Some images go beyond graffiti and become a prelude either to something remarkable or to something very, very silly.

14 January 2007

14 Jan--Wellington Streets, pt 1

To begin with, few are signposted. This seems to be a non issue for locals, yet for visitors and new arrivals, navigating Wellington is frustrating at best. Jamie is reminded of this as he sips a pint of Mac's Golden on the balcony of a central pub. Various backpack-laden people walk up and down the same street two or three times--they look down at the map, up to where a signpost SHOULD be, then, confused, back to the map. They appear to bounce from corner to corner like rats in the proverbial maze. He watches as they ask for directions, twice (hearing "oh, that restaurant is on the corner of Courtenay Place and Taranaki" means little when neither street makes itself known.)

Just to add to the fun of watching confused tourists, some streets have different names depending on which way traffic is flowing. One street (two?) that runs next to the now-famous Embassy theatre (site of the world premier of Lord of the Rings) is named Kent Terrace for traffic flowing south, and Cambridge Terrace for traffic flowing north. Jamie wishes someone would explain this to him.

On many occasions, after failing to find his destination, Jamie would simply wander up and down the streets taking snapshots of graffiti, advertisements, and stencil art spray-painted to the odd cornerstone.

One of his favourites is by a local artist named Otis Chamberlain. Chamberlain's work can be seen as stencil, graffiti, and, lately, on a drink ad. In the coming days, Jamie will notice and photograph other gems tucked into the concrete corners of the city.

13 Jan--An Observation

It soon occurs to Jamie that any inherent element of "cool" in a person is all but completely extinguished during the act of learning how to lasso.

13 January 2007

12 Jan--The Book of Cool

The Book of Cool is a combination book and DVD. Inside lies the mystery of being so chick-scoringly cool it is a wonder the price tag is a mere $54.95. Not that Jamie would pay to be cool, of course. No. Never.

He would, however, borrow the chance.

The Book of Cool demonstrates in colourful, documented steps how to perform acts of coolness in many disciplines including, but not limited to, skateboarding (ollies, heel flips), soccer (many juggling tricks), shuffling cards, spinning pens/pencils around one's fingers, mixing drinks, pool trick shots, Frisbee, roller blading, and juggling (Jamie knows from experience what a pull juggling can be at a party).

He sleepily flicks through the book; the DVD in its case, unopened. He indulges for a moment in the fantasy that if he should learn even one cool point, he would invite himself to as many parties as he possibly could. He stops flicking the book at the chapter on juggling and decides to begin here.

He looks at the page, and a photo of a man throwing chainsaws into the air looks back.

"Cool." Jamie observes, and he begins.

The first sentence of the chapter reads, "Mad Chad is a professional juggler . . . You are NOT Mad Chad."

Here Jamie stops. The blunt truthfulness of this sentence smacks him in the face. Who am I kidding, he thinks? I've never been cool--beginning now would be pouring lemon juice on the wound.

He flicks quickly through the book with the intention of closing it when he notices a different chapter.

"What's this?" Jamie says, noticing the heading of the chapter. It reads, Lassoing.

"Much better," He says out loud and races down to the garage to find the nylon rope. "There might just be cool in me yet."

11 January 2007

11 Jan--Senior's Menu

Darrell, Karen, and Peter (Jamie's father, mother, and brother respectively) are moving to Dunedin. Their initial efforts to find a house were fruitless, but their luck changed yesterday when they found a place in St. Clair that boasted views of both the city and the sea. It could hardly get any better.

The three of them decided to eat out in celebration, understandably. Choosing Cobb & Co. (New Zealand's version of The Black Eyed Pea or Chilis or Ruby Tuesday or Amarillo Grill or any theme-oriented, family-friendly, mass produced franchise restaurant) was more a result of Peter's insatiable desire for cheese-laden meat food than a desire to find a nice meal. While perusing the menu, the waitress approached the table and rattled off a few specials, most of which fell into the cheesy meat, or meaty pasta.

"And the fish of the day is blue cod," she chipper, youthful tone.

"Blue cod," Karen thought, biting her tongue, "how . . . special."

The waitress began to walk away, but suddenly spun on her heel as if she'd forgotten to tell them something, which she had. She reached over Darrell's shoulder and pointed to the menu in his hand. "Oh, and the senior's menu on page three. It's there for people 55 and over, so you might want to think about that."

Darrell was ropable. With each shade of red his face darkened, Karen laughed harder.

"What the hell did she say to me? Senior's menu?!" Darrell whispered loudly.

"Look," Karen offered, wiping the tears from her face, "most of the items come with a straw!"

They hooted and howled, forgetting for a moment the move, their quest for a house, even their surroundings. It was good to laugh again.

08 January 2007

8 Jan -- Peter and the Sundial of Human Involvement

Peter Love regards the world with what is best described as sincere honesty. He gives every situation the benefit of the doubt, whether it be a conversation or a television commercial (indeed, he will sometimes comment in all seriousness on our need to investigate the possibility of buying new carpet after witnessing with what ease red wine is lifted from a StainMaster brand rug on TV). Peter will strip away cynicism and clever marketing and regard a message in its own dumb nakedness. Sarcasm, far from being misunderstood, is simply ignored. This is illustrated no better than in the case of Peter and the Sundial of Human Involvement.

In the leafy centre of Wellington's Botanical Gardens there sits the Sundial in question. A sign invites passers by to stand in the middle, thrust one's arms into the air, and create a human sundial. Most participants who do so enjoy a laugh or a bit of self-deprecating humour. Peter, however, carefully read the instructions and stepped into the sun.

"It says you need to stand on today's date, Pete." John, Peter's brother, shouted as he read further. On the ground was a figure-eight in stone with various calendar dates. For the dial to work, the person needed to be on the correct day to take into account the tilt of the earth.

"Today's date isn't here." Peter replied, pointing to the evidence.

"Well, I guess you'll just have to get close." John replied.

"Hardly accurate." Peter shot back.

Never one to let an obstacle like the existence of a day stop him, Peter places his hands together and raised them over his head. His body was straight and motionless, for a moment you could almost see the shadow moving slyly across the number's face.

"What time is it?" Jamie asked. His question was met with silence as Peter interpreted his position.

"2:20." Peter said firmly.

Jamie looked at his watch.

"Nope. It's a quarter-to-three." He said.

"That's a shame." Peter replied, his arms flopping to his side. "It was such a good idea. This really could have caught on."

07 January 2007

7 Jan--A quick reflection on the weekend

Jamie's friend Scot got married to Holly (Ami, Jamie's partner, is Holly's sister) on Saturday, and Jamie was lucky enough to be invited to the wedding. Despite the pastor's waffling incoherently and completely misinterpreting the story of the Wedding at Caana (My take: Jesus didn't turn water into wine. Let's be serious for a moment--the bartender was holding back, telling everyone there was no more so they wouldn't get into his good stash. When he heard that some fella was going to pour water into his casks, he quickly brought them to the surface. Oh! A miracle! We DO have wine!), the wedding was a lovely one. More importantly, though, the reception was legendary. As soon as Jamie sees the photos, he'll be able to remember what happened. Until then, he'll have to live with the colourful events that zip briefly through his memory: Champagne on the beach, a meatball, potatoes roasted by babies, shouting his lungs out to Bon Jovi covers, why is there chalk in my mouth?, the congo line through Michelle's kitchen while the B-52's blared on a hijacked stereo . . . on second thought, Jamie may not need the pictures after all.

Congratulations Holly and Scot.

03 January 2007

Returning to work, Jamie finds his desk exactly as he left it: a music magazine lay flat next to a small shelf of Web Design books, site navigation maps are tucked underneath his phone, a wind-up alarm clock with Chairman Mao painted on the face sits silently near his monitor. Although it has been a mere ten days since he left, he walked in thinking something would be different, but nothing is. The calendar on the wall still displays December 2006. In the corner a tired, plastic Christmas tree leans against the wall, its pipe-cleaner branches clinging defiantly to the garland. All the while the air conditioning haunts the room with a low, steady whisper. Soon the place will yawn to life: more people will shuffle to their desks, and keyboards will chatter under the electronic burble of telephones. Talk will be of the holidays: how they were spent and how they will spend the next one. Whatever transpired during the previous days is for most little more than a residue--it sits unused, waiting to be washed away.

Jamie, on the other hand, is more comfortable loitering about the long halls of his memory. Reflection is half the fun of living, he's decided. Over the next few days he will try to bring to light moments heavy with meaning, moments of impact, and moments of hopeless frivolity. The reader, he hopes, will not be able to tell the difference.