New Zealand – March 1, 2016

A rough night at the sweet B&B. The beds just sucked. So flabby as to perpetrate the dreaded inverted-parabola-torture scenario, the bane of side sleepers. Oh, well. I snost and I lost. Our host is quite lovely and considerate, though her payment system flummoxes. I am compelled to initiate a mission to find cash money, following her to the nearest ATM, which just happens to be across the street from an establishment called Mr. Bun. Mr. Bun!

This kerfuffle sets us on the road a half hour later than we anticipated. Will we make the 10:30 Weta Workshop tour in Wellington? Whew. Not a nanosecond to spare, what with parking on a residential street and everything. Weta has provided all the special effects for Peter Jackson’s work, as well as many other productions. They offer a short tour, really just a visit to a prop room/repository/museum with a peek at some of the craftsmen at work. Aliens and armor and hardware hang from every available surface. Our guide hands around four iterations of chainmail. Joss and I are in nerd heaven. The work involved in creating convincing verisimilitude for these nutty illusions is daunting. For example, consider the painstaking insertion of millions of individual follicles into a test gorilla in order to chart their motion: this to give the animators something real and adaptable to work from.

Locating the Wellesley Hotel is our next project. Our rooms aren’t ready, so we take a seat in the pub and order lunch. The Wellesley was a Georgian-style, four-story men’s club in its day and converted some twenty years ago into a small hotel. The exterior and the common rooms are a little down at the heels, but the guest rooms themselves are elegant and spacious, with less-soft mattresses.

After the meal, we can unload. I volunteer to take the Focus back to Hertz by myself and let Joss ease her way-tired bones. The rent-a-car return process requires no human contact. I stroll back to the hotel past the cargo port, huge ‘Imperial Walker’ cranes, stacks and stacks of containers, and giant piles of logs for export. To my right squats the giant, unprepossessing stadium the locals call ‘The Cake Tin’. I buy Gandalf stamps at the PO on the way and get a haircut from a woman named Kim.

By mid-afternoon, Joss and I begin exploring. Joss declares her desire to find a purse. Lambton Quay, just behind the hotel, is Wellington’s main shopping street. And, by golly, if a suitable handbag doesn’t appear: attractive, competitively priced, and sporting fringe. We wander through an intriguing galleria in the old Bank of New Zealand building. Devon and Louise will pick us up at the hotel at six, so we return in order to clean up our acts.

At six o’clock, the lobby is bustling with distinguished gentlemen. Groups of two or three come through the front door, each fellow carrying a case, either backgammon size or one twice as big, but always one of those two. Hogwarts, Class of ’51 Reunion? Can’t be. No women. Then we notice the full-length portrait hanging on the landing – a Mason in full regalia. Uh-oh, mumbo-fucking-jumbo.

Devon drives us (Yay! I’m hands-free!) up Mount Victoria for a panorama of Wellington – seaward slopes covered with houses, the gleaming hodge-podge of the central business district, and distant inlets and mountains. The wind up here is strong, with a bite of chill. Then, we drive out to an old quarry located right at the shore. We get to see aspects of the city we wouldn’t have otherwise.

Lou and Dev have promised to take us to dinner. The restaurant they choose is Floriditas on Cuba Street, where Louise worked as an undergrad. Two more charming people would be hard to imagine. Both in their mid-20s, Lou’s an architect formerly with Greg’s firm and Dev’s working on his architecture degree at university. He spent several years in construction before committing to school. On Greg and Tori’s recommendation, they had stayed at 54 Bleecker Street while I was in Lisbon six months ago.

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