New Zealand – February 19, 2016

The plan is to meet for breakfast between 8:30 and nine o’clock. I head down at 8:30 and Joss has been there for a half hour. We gather our wit (the one we trade back and forth) and attempt to restore a little caffeinated spring to our step. I slept okay. So did Joss. Maybe jetlag will not manifest.

Auckland is a humming metropolis where modernity condescends to its nineteenth century antecedents. Dwarfed by tacky gleaming towers, isolated and elegant Victorian municipal buildings suffer unimaginative mercantile reuse with all the aplomb of a cat in a dress. A walk along the esplanade starts at the Ferry building and leads to the Maritime Museum where Auckland demonstrates why it calls itself The City of Sails. The Museum has many nautical stories to tell, from the incredibly intrepid Polynesians, the last humans on the planet to discover uninhabited lands, to the doughty Brits and their tenacious seafaring ingenuity. It’s all capped by the glamour of recent America’s Cup combatants.


We make arrangements to spend an hour in the harbor aboard the Ted Ashby, a ketch-rigged scow, representative of the fleet of flat-bottomed freight haulers that plied the waters of the North Island carrying cargo on their decks. Twenty-five French teenagers are part of this crew. Joss is able to figure out that for most of the way they’re talking about Game of Thrones. Hodor in French is pronounced ‘Oh-dor’. The sail is breezy yet deliberate, for the scow was built for durability, not for speed.


Oysters for lunch. Mollusks have a compulsory appeal for the two of us. The waiter asks if we want a ‘creamy’ dozen. Creamy? That adjective does not apply to oysters, but we say ‘yes’. Yeah, they’re creamy, I guess. A certain fatty mouth feel. It cuts the brine and the sweetness, in fact, the ‘oyster-ness’ we’re used to. Anyway, the second dozen we order, we order ‘not the creamy kind’ and they satisfy.


Wandering, we try to follow the guidebook’s fragmentary goddamn maps. My short-term memory is on the fritz, so we have to stop every hundred meters in order to reconnoiter through the narrow streets of cafés and boutiques. Joss finds a pair of pants that look great and make a splendid birthday present. Now the map suggests we cross this park, which turns out to be alpine steep. At the top is the Gaudi-meets-Gothic clocktower of Auckland University. We venture inside, marvel at the airy, columnar space, several floors of fluted balconies, arched windows, and offices all bathed in a watery light, and find the bathroom.


Our search of ice cream is epically futile. This would not happen in NY. There’d be places to fatten up on every other corner. So, we end up back at hotel. Pfeh. The ascent up Queen Street is long and trudgy, but I’m acclimating, it seems. Though I perspire like a stuck pig, I didn’t feel on the verge of a coronary today. A couple hours downtime is spent soaking in the tub and writing at the desk provided.


I have picked out a couple places for dinner. The decided-upon Asian fusion place is down towards the harbor, yet another trek, but we’re in training for our hike across Mordor next week. We have tickets to the late show of Briefs, a boylesque/acrobatic extravaganza that’s part of Auckland’s Pride Week shenanigans. It’s as close to a burlesque show as I could find. They’ve set it up café-style on the stage of one of Auckland’s newer theaters. The energy these fellows expend is astonishing, very gymnastic and very, very gay.


We learn a useful gesture for establishing dominance. Say you have an adversary. Raise your open hand palm out, close the fan of your fingers in cascading order, and hiss – Jealous. To submit, all one needs to do turn one’s palm inward. The word jealous sounds more muted. But not defeated; resigned.


One of the performers hails from NYC. His name is Evil Hate Monkey. Joss knows him; that’s showbiz for you. The show has been ridiculous and fun, mostly lighter than air with just a few clunky parts. We meet Mr. Monkey afterwards and I think he is delighted to see a colleague.

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