New Zealand – February 16, 2016

We’re aloft on the first leg of our antipodal journey, the JFK to LAX stretch. Some earlier observations – 1) Joss beat me to the airport, 2) Her suitcase was seventeen pounds lighter than mine, and 3) Her delight in Delta Sky Club (Iced tea! But, oh, sad carrots.) made me grin. Then, the following message from Alice appeared electronically almost causing me to aspirate a wasabi pea: Have fun returning the One Ring!!! Eat lembas and befriend dwarves. Stay the fuck away from Sean Bean.

LAX is confusing (see: endless blue corridor) and we are uncertain. Have our bags been checked through or do they spin on a carrousel somewhere in the netherbowels of this place? Which of these seven or eight terminals could be headquarters for Air New Zealand? Joss tosses her head and commences with some fast walking. “For a New Yorker, you walk awfully slow.” I tag along, keeping my mouth shut. We have plenty of time to resolve the mysteries and we do. My groovy Amex card gets us into the VIP lounge where snacks abound.

My job, while airborne, had been to write thirty invitations to the party I want to throw myself in April. I don’t have the presence of mind to inquire about a mailbox until we get to the lounge. The guy at the desk drops his chin and tells me that there are no mailboxes in the airport. Security, you know. I explain they’re just party invitations and show him the box. “Twenty bucks,” I say. He gives me the look that tells me I’m being persuasive and offers to mail them despite the risk to his job should this transgression be sussed out by the powers. He didn’t take the money.

The flight across the Pacific takes twelve hours, but first, there’s the requisite tarmac-sitting. The cause for this delay, it is eventually revealed, is a plumbing problem – aircraft-wide toilet malfunction. We sit. There’s an update. We sit for another half hour. Update. Sit. Good to go. The plane taxis a perplexing distance that could for all intents and purposes have taken us to San Diego, and then lifts into the air. Time stands still. Or hiccups. We hurtle from Tuesday, February 16th to Thursday, February 18th in half a day with all the turbulencia that crossing the International Dateline entails.

Happy Birthday, Dear Jocelyn. Happy Birthday To You!

Hello, Auckland. Watch me now drive on the wrong side of the road. The trip from the airport car rental to the hotel involves numerous encounters with rumble strips and a side trip up a dead end, where a man in very small shorts balefully witnesses me back the fuck up into traffic. Our rooms aren’t ready, a downside of arriving mid-morning. Let’s have some coffee and contemplate semi-productive ways to kill time. We order a pair of micro-muffins and I blurt out my terrible hygiene confession. “God, Joss, I just feel gummy. The next stupid thing I say, when I slap my forehead, my hand’ll stick. Let’s take them up on the offer of a shower in the spa.” We are renewed and on a roll. I suggest Joss visit the nail salon while I find a barber. We shall be beautiful and ready for lunch.

Adjoining rooms. Can we nap? Not really. More time-killing. I’ve made a 7pm reservation for Joss’ birthday dinner at a French bistro on Queen Street, but it’s only 4:30. A walk could while away a couple hours, so we let gravity draw us toward the harbor, only to distracted by sights along the way. Look, there’s a pop-up Globe Theater, sided in corrugated metal and featuring six plays from the Shakespearian canon in repertory. And it’s rush hour, so all Auckland is heading home. This is quite a cosmopolitan city, as diverse as some of the big northern hemisphere cities.

Jocelyn pays for her birthday dinner. Last month, she and her boyfriend, Jared, invited me to an Egyptian restaurant in Astoria for my belated birthday and I had to pay. We have a new tradition – Buy your own fucking birthday dinner.


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