Photo Dump

This horrible life

Later for words.

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Vacated minds, wasted spaces

When you’re on holiday, you don’t have to worry about punctuation forming a coherent thought or personal hygeiene.

If you don’t wreak bumbling the neighborhood muttering nonsensical, grammatically incorrect, run on sentences, then you haven’t earned a vacation.

Management experts believe that people who have their shit together must never have a good time. Only the incompetent, they say, should be allowed to take paid leave. I would take this one step further. Incompetent people should be encouraged to spend as much time away from the office as possible. I’m pretty sure that’s why a lot of people at work were happy when I announced I was going to be gone for 10 days. If efficiency and productivity improve by the 200% I expect in my absence, I will recommend to my bosses that I should go on leave indefinitely, so as to lift company performance. Always happy to take one for the team.

It’s crazy. Leaving Auckland for a week. Why would I want to do that? Auckland is an urban planning marvel. It’s the city dreamed by a car. Beware of pedestrians.

It leads to dead spaces.

The only scenario I can imagine in which someone would sit in a space like this is if they’ve just been shivved by a fellow inmate, and they needed a sec to light a cigarette as they bled out.

I haven’t formulated why I think these spaces are because of cars. I’m thinking of explaining it in a photography project cataloging Auckland’s wasted spaces, even crowdfunding for decent equipment.

But cars are definitely a part of the calculation. A lot of people drive them. Entire transportation infrastructures have disappeared.

Obviously it wasn’t cars that obviated railroads. Planes did that. But in truth, the infrastructure hasn’t disappeared.

Some of it ends up with a historical society.:

If you want a glimpse of future events:

That’s Auckland Domain beyond the rail-bed.

A car loves speed and billboards and signs. It is amused by appeals to its addictions. It adores pithiness at 60kph.

Juxtapositions of its basic appetites allow it to dwell on itself. Here is Magnum Ice Cream, in heat. It is barely visible in this shot (there’s another picture below). The ad is essentially a conflation of  commodity junk food with coitus. You can buy an orgasm. (I mean, without involving a professional). It guarantees a presumably feminine audience an alternative delight to the one that so often eludes them, at least according to the popular imagination. How are you going to sell that to a man? As the Woody Allen line from Manhattan goes, “I’ve never had the wrong kind. Ever. My worst one was right on the money.”

But if you notice in the picture above, right next to the Magnum ad is Neat Meat:

Part of the joke is cultural specific. Magnum is a condom brand. I’m not the first person to giggle about it.
Neat Meat. Magnum. It’s like a sausage with the casing on it. You see? Or maybe an easier simile: it’s like a penis with a condom on it.

Anyway, back to wasted spaces. This is the oval in front of  what was once the Auckland Railway Station.

Which is now pretty much something to park near.

The station facade.

Just in case you mistook the railway station for a railway station, there’s a sign.

tktktk

Anyway. I’ll kvetch about this crap another time. I just need to rest. Go away.

Jacquie does too. Lately she’s been stepping on the ends of mops and getting clocked in the head by its handle.

Jacquie is the only three dimensional person I know of who has done that. Like in the cartoons. Unless Jacquie is Wilma Flinstone, that really shouldn’t be happening at all.

She says this happens because, “I’m the only one who cleans up around here.”

But I think hitting herself in the head with a mop handle, like in the cartoons, is really some weird cry for help. Obviously, it was an accident, she says. Obviously, Jacquie? Really? Because I think there are no accidents. I mean, you start with these kinds of gestures, and next thing you know you’ll be arranging to have a piano fall on your head. Just like in the cartoons.

Oh, crap. Stick a fork in me because i’m

Sustain the nice work, recognize your sharing

This is a four-day weekend for many New Zealand companies.

Damned if I’m going to sit here and come up with new material on my day off.

Let someone else take the blame for a change.

With that in mind, here are recent pictures from around the way, interspersed with some kind words submitted to Basement Life by a good friend. If I hadn’t caught his or her email in time, WordPress would have deleted it as Spam. The friend writes:

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The city of fun and attractions

I realized the other day that I haven’t been “adding value” to my posts the way I used to do.

There’s a good reason. I mean beside from my usual contempt for people who come to my site.

It’s nothing to worry about. Just a mild case of crippling depression.

But I won’t go on about that right now. I’m saving it for sweeps week.

Instead, please look at some more bland photographs of places to go and things to see around Auckland.

The Pah Homestead in Monte Cecilia park used to be a school and home for orphans and other discarded children. Now it's the home of the lyrically named TSB Bank Wallace Arts Centre, a quite enjoyable collection of contemporary New Zealand art.

I took this picture the last time we visited the Pah Homestead. I intended to write the name of the artist. But before I could, I was tackled from behind and violently thrown to the floor. “Jacquie,” I said, “what the hell are you doing?” “Sorry,” she said, “I thought you were somebody else.”

Jacquie stopped acting so tough when we strolled among Monte Cecilia's massive oak, magnolias, pines, cypress and other native and imported trees.

"Jacquie," I said. "You are no match for these trees. You may be able to do terrible things to me but these trees are not so easily pushed around. Try and you will see." "Simon," Jacquie said. "You are a fool. I will bring these trees to heel shortly. Their bark is worse than their bite." "Jacquie," I said. "We have descended to a new low in both our conversation and our online content. Let us end this now." Then Jacquie hit me in the back of the head with a shovel. Then I woke up in my bed. "Oh, it was just a dream all along," I said. Then Jacquie hit me over the head with a mallet. "That's for ending this in a cheap cliche," she said.

Three Lamps Plaza. The building was erected in 1910 as a roller rink and later became the Britannia Movie Theatre, which closed in 1969. Today it houses a number of businesses, including a roller rink and a movie theatre. Except the roller rink is now a brothel (roller-skates optional) and the movie house shows 1970s German porn in a continuous loop.

This is an ad for a New Zealand television network that launched in February. With its fourth network up and running, New Zealand now offers one television channel for every household in the country.

A house on Ponsonby Road. Ponsonby is a trendy neighborhood where one-bedroom houses can sell for $600,000 to $700,000. Larger properties go for more than a million. I'm not sure if this makes Ponsonby one of the priciest areas in Auckland, but you can certainly see why that would be if it were so.

The trompe l'oeil painting on this fence in Ponsonby gives the convincing illusion of a poorly painted fence. But the important thing is everyone had fun.

Soho Square off Ponsonby Road in Grey Lynn. According to Wikipedia, this was the site of a yeast production plant in 1910. By the looks of things, it still could very well be a yeast production plant, among other things. In fact, it's a good thing this is here because there is a terrible shortage of mosquitoes in New Zealand.

The D-72 on Dominion Road. It's difficult to take a photograph of a wicker office building while driving your car into a bunch of people trying to enjoy their dinner at a sidewalk cafe. But I managed to do it. Only kidding. They weren't enjoying their dinners. It's not the loveliest building you'll see in New Zealand but when you pass it you can't avert your eyes.

Yikes

Karangahape Road (usually referred to as K Road)

Downtown

Sky Tower

You Asked for It

I posted some pictures last week from a trip Jacquie and I took in January.

But you people are never satisfied.

Not only do you want me to waste time writing this blog, now you want me to underwrite 300 megabytes worth of bandwidth so you can see my vacation photos?

Well I hope you’re happy now.

Go to my Flickr photo stream so you can see more dull pictures, some even more dull than from last week’s post.  You can look at pictures of our hike on the slopes of Mt Taranaki and our visit to the Taranaki Pioneer Village. You could see us walking around Wellington on a rainy day or one that is sunny. Or you could see pictures of Zealandia, a sanctuary for native species enclosed by a 9 km rodent-proof fence. Or not.

A Midlife Crisis Holiday

The world is in flux. A revolutionary wave of anti-government protest has spread from Tunisia to Egypt, threatening to overturn the autocratic regime of Hosni Mubarak, a long-time ally of the United States. With all this going on, there are probably a million questions swirling through your mind.

Like, you must be wondering, “How was Simon’s vacation? Did he enjoy himself? Did he bring enough changes of underwear? Or any underwear? Did he maintain an appropriate level of dental hygiene or did he ‘let caution fly to the wind?'”

The answers to these questions go back to early January, as I despaired at the prospect of my impending birthday. Like a physician conducting a colorectal exam, I gaped into the geriatric abyss, and there beheld the unsavory vision of my incipient dotage.

I had to face the music. In a few days, I would turn 40. This was no laughing matter.

Jacquie observed my flagging spirits and proposed we take a trip as a momentary distraction from the disgusting march of time. Our kitchen table was covered instantly with South Pacific travel brochures. They enticed us to balmy tropical paradises. But none was suitable to my advanced state of decay, nor my special dietary requirements. The travel literature before us made few references to coral reef access ramps, no early-bird specials of which to speak. But Jacquie would not be daunted.

Jacquie suggested––after an irritating 20-minute song-and-dance review of The Sound of Music––that I was having a midlife crisis and a midlife crisis called for a road trip.

“Midlife crisis,” I said. “Pshah.”

The phrase smacked to me of man-boys stricken by mortal terror making fools of themselves with women half their age in a futile attempt to deny their burgeoning sexual irrelevance. The idea didn’t sit well with me.

But then I realized that this condition didn’t apply to me thanks to my peculiar genetic inheritance. Given my lumpy, misshapen Irish potato head and my humongous sesame-seed bagel-nose, the fact of the matter is I was never sexually relevant. Crisis averted!

“Still,” I said with a sheepish grin, “there’s one stereotype I’d like to live up to, especially if we’re taking a road trip.”

“What’s that?” Jacquie said.

“Can I blow our life-savings on a really awesome car?”

Jacquie agreed, and so the next day, I got up very early, went straight to the car dealership and recklessly purchased a 2002 Honda Civic Hatchback.

With tinted windows.

And we were on our way.

We were driven by wanderlust down the Forgotten World Highway, a 155 km stretch of mostly paved road wending through rugged pasture land and lush valleys.

We stopped for lunch in the famous-in-New Zealand town of Whangamomona, which declared itself a republic years ago (read about it here). At the Hotel, I ordered a green salad, which arrived covered in ketchup; the town’s efforts to project itself as a colorful tourist attraction had surely paid off.

“This is the best midlife crisis ever,” I said.

I liked Whangamomona. I was sad to see that the hotel was for sale, among other signs that this tiny republic was struggling through hard times. Maybe it was too remote. Maybe other tourists don’t take truck with ketchup salad. Whatever the reason, Whangamomona was getting to be a downer. We had to leave before our wanderlust turned to Weltschmerz.

We drove to the end of the highway, through the hideous town of Stratford.

Then we drove as fast as we could up to Dawson Falls on the slopes of Mt. Taranaki where Jacquie and I had booked several nights at the Dawson Falls Romantic Hotel.

 

We went on several hikes around  Mt. Taranaki. We intended to enjoy my midlife crisis in the peace and seclusion of our romantic hotel. But we were not alone.

Three British septuagenarians checked in soon after us. We could tell they were British from their baleens. There was one male and two females. The females were curious beasts that did not fear swimming and splashing with humans after finishing their plankton suppers (Which Jacquie and I thought were quite overpriced.)

The British tourists’ attempts to communicate with us, however, were hampered by their cumbersome teeth, forcing them to rely heavily on a combination of clicks, whistles and bodily gestures, as is common among the British. We enjoyed, nevertheless, a polite, if superficial conversation about our respective itineraries.

We later bid our new British friends good night. But as we repaired to our room, we could hear them talking about us in speculative tones.

“What a lovely couple,” one of the ladies said. “And I don’t care how old and decrepit they seem to be. If two consenting adults have functioning units, why shouldn’t they experience pleasurable friction on occasion?”

Needless to say, we soured on the romantic hotel and we left under cover of darkness. We had to keep moving. We had to feel the invigoration of our powerful Honda Civic thrumming under our loins. We drove. We drove hard. Toward Wellington. We didn’t speak at all and we stopped only once to visit the Taranaki Pioneer Village because Lonely Planet said it was “creepy.”

What’s creepy about that? It’s just the human life cycle, done up in mannequins. Life, death, bank loan applications, bad moustaches and wooden meat: Taranaki Pioneer Village was, I realized, an exact replica of my own life. And seeing this taught me something. It made me think how lucky I was not to have to work at the Taranaki Pioneer Village; how fortunate I was to have been born in a time when I could get into my high-performance Honda Civic and drive away from such an awful place at great speed. And as we left, I turned to look back on Pioneer Village one last time.

“Thank you,” I said. “Thank you for teaching me such a great lesson, you stiff, awkward, silent, life-like people.”

“No worries,” said one of the ticket-takers at the entrance. “And you come back any time.”

“Maybe I will,” I said. I pursed my lips, squinted my eyes and nodded deliberately, knowingly. “Maybe I will.”

The ticket taker smiled. A beam of light seemed to shine from her face. I turned to leave. Then I turned back a half-second later and said, “Psyche. I’m never coming back here. What are you fucking kidding me?”

Then we drove off. Me and Jacquie. We headed down south to Wellington and by the time we checked into the hotel there, the malaise of my midlife crisis had begun to lift.

We spent a lot of time in Wellington, eating in cafes and restaurants on Cuba Street, checking out the Te Papa Museum and seeing a rare Kiwi bird up close in the highly valuable Zealandia sanctuary and exhibit.

(Plenty more pictures, but I’m bored by now. Maybe another post. Stay tuned)

We saw a lot and though I was beginning to get used to being 40, I had the strangest sensation walking around Wellington that something still wasn’t right about my life.

In No Particular Order

Jacquie and I are going on a road trip. We’re bringing a GPS device. Like an iPad, its screen automatically changes orientation as you go from holding the device vertically to horizontally and back again. This way we’ll know exactly where we are as our car tumbles down the side of a cliff. So, I won’t be posting here for a while, especially if we tumble down the side of a cliff.

In the meantime…

 

 

Words that Wound and Other Yuletide Festivities

Christmas came early to our house this year.

It arrived way ahead of New Year’s Eve.

But not before St. Patrick’s Day stopped in for a beer just because it “happened to be in the neighborhood.”

This made Christmas very uncomfortable, of course, after their ugly fight at Thanksgiving.

They had exchanged…words that wound.

The flowers of the pohutukawa tree. The pohutukawa ("drenched with mist" in Maori) is sometimes referred to as the New Zealand Christmas Tree.

Now the two sat in the lounge for what seemed like an eternity of stilted, awkward conversation.

Christmas couldn’t take any more. It got up to leave, insisting it had a million “little chores” to do at home.

Which was all for the better, frankly, seeing how the holiday had caught me off guard.

I’d forgotten to get Jacquie a present.

It's beginning to look a lot like the Nihotupu track in the Waitakere Ranges. This stream feeds the Upper Nihotupu reservoir, part of Auckland's water system.

Jacquie handed me a small object wrapped in colorful paper, with a fussy little ribbon.

“What’s the occasion?” I said.

“Ha ha, Simon, you’re so funny,” she said. “You’re the funniest person in the world. I don’t know why people don’t walk up to you on the street and give you a million dollars and name their children after you. And you’re so nice and considerate and you never use words that wound. Open your present.”*

It was an iPod Nano (6th generation).

I was touched. But that was beside the point. I was moved. This was a surprising gift. I hadn’t owned a personal listening device in ages.

“Where’s the cassette go?” I said.

“––.”

“Don’t worry,” I said. “I know it takes CDs.”

The Upper Nihotupu reservoir has a capacity of 336,000,000 gallons. Dam, that's a lot of water. Here the liquid passes through a pipe, as you can see. I'd been carrying 0.079251616 gallons of what you see there until just before this picture was taken.**

The device, as it turned out, imposed a steep learning curve that taxed all my faculties.

After six hours of screaming, one sprained wrist, third-degree burns all about my face and torso, a torn ligament and 25 mg of Valerian, I finally managed to upload a single tune.

Caribbean Queen by Billy Ocean.

The situation was turning ugly.

I know what you're thinking. So I'm going to come out and say it to clear the air of...words that wound. This isn't a Hobbit hole, ok? That's just such a stupid, obvious joke. This is a damned tunnel. Alright? Just a tunnel. Not a nasty, dirty, wet tunnel, filled with the ends of worms and an oozy smell, nor yet a dry, bare, sandy tunnel with nothing in it to sit down on or to eat. It's a tunnel that passes under the MAXX rail-bed and leads from the east side of Auckland Domain to Parnell (where the wankers dwell.) Hobbits use this tunnel to commute to work, and to sell drugs and sexual services to one another.

I called technical support.

I told them I was having trouble manipulating the controls on Nano’s little touch-screen.

“I see what the problem is, sir,” the tech support person said.

“You do?”

“Yes. Your fingers are the size of Hungarian sausages. Lay off the Ring Dings, if you can be bothered, and maybe in a few years you’ll be able to enjoy one of our fine products.”

I was going to yell at the tech support guy for using…words that wound.

But on second thought, he made a valid point as far as my physique was concerned.

You see, my Nano had gone missing for a while that day.

Jacquie and I looked everywhere. Things seemed hopeless. I tossed my head back in Joan of Arc fashion and just as I did that, the Nano popped out from a fold of adipose tissue between my second and third chin. We figured it must have slipped in there while I was eating a Ring Ding.

“You’re probably right,” I said. “Got any other helpful tidbits?”

“Yes,” the tech dude said. “Your blog is getting lame, bland and repetitive.”

“‘Getting’?”

“Bravo,” he said. “Well done. Didn’t see that one coming. Please, no more. I don’t want any part of it. That whole ‘Christmas came early this year’ bit as a segue into this Nano routine? Nuh-uh. Total crap.”

“I know what you mean,” I said.

A disused railroad siding in a layer of adipose tissue between Auckland Domain and Parnell, near the Hobbit tunnel. (Note Hobbit feces). "Look," I said to Jacquie. "It's the G train. Finally." Even the Nano tech dude would have to admit this was a very humorous comment because the G train is a subway line in New York notorious for long waits, unannounced disruptions, and mildly irritating graffiti featuring...words that wound. Thus the implication here is that the "G train " was so tardy in its arrival that the motorcar corroded to the level of decay (pictured), making for a whimsical moment of absurdist satire that sophisticated people on one-and-one-fifttieth continents can enjoy. Note the added layer of humor in the suggestion that a NYC subway line could be extended to NYC's near-antipode, which would be highly impractical even if it were technically doable.

I couldn’t think what else to say.

Tech dude’s cherished yuletide sentiments had wounded me in the sebaceous area between my second and third chins.

I threw my head back in pain, adding my trademark Joan of Arc flourish. A Nano shot out of my adipose folds, soaring through the air, smashing against a Ring Ding.

I was about to hang up on the tech dude when Jacquie furiously grabbed the phone out of my hand.

“I just wanted to say one thing to you,” she screamed. “Merry Christmas.”

Then she hung up.

Then she turned to me.

Then she screamed again.

Then she said “Well, do you have a gift for me?”

Traffic signs in New Zealand often provide confusing or self-contradicory information, resulting in hundreds of thousands of wounds and deaths, costing the nation a few hundred dollars in lost productivity every year. But sometimes you come across a traffic sign that is relatively clear. New Zealand's written driver's exam always has at least one question regarding what to do when approaching the sign pictured above.

As a matter of fact, I did have time to prepare something.

“Here you go honey,” I said.

I handed her an envelope.

She was getting all teary eyed.

She opened the envelope, pulled out a note I’d written, and read out loud.

“‘I.O.U. one fantastic gift,'” she said. She looked at me, astonished. “But that’s what you got me for my birthday.”

“Not exactly,” I said. “This time the note was written on toilet paper.”

Jacquie was disgusted. She used several “words that wound,” alluding to uncomfortable-sounding objects orienting themselves in time and space to my nether region.

Then she smelled the IOU toilet paper and gagged. “Is that brown ink or is that what I hope it isn’t?”

“I’ll never tell,” I said. “But I’ll say one thing: getting a Hobbit to take stool-softener and spell out a letter with his own excrement is not as difficult as everyone makes it out to be.”

This microscope is an inexplicable part of the penguin habitat exhibit at Kelly Tarlton's, a sort of combination aquarium, wildlife exhibit, children's museum and, at night, corporate event venue. My new employer held its Christmas party there.

Then the doorbell rang. It was the Apple tech guy.

“Would you please, please, end this stupid post now?” he said. “It’s terrible and nobody’s read this far because it’s Christmas and you’re already at like 1,250 words.”

They served a buffet dinner that included several kinds of meat.

“I’ll think about it,” I said.

A segment of tentacle at Kelly Tarlton's has absolutely no friends. It's not attached to anyone. It just likes to hang out in formaldehyde.

“OK,” I said. “You’re right.”

“Thank you,” the tech guy said.

“Merry Christmas.”

Another fine specimen. Although it has nothing to do with this picture, Kelly Tarlton was the inventor of the underwater viewing tubule used by many modern aquariums.

* Quote taken verbatim.

**Because I pee’d in the reservoir.

Spring in the South Pacific

Poetry. Nobody understands it. Even fewer bother to try. Its purpose appears to be to make the dull moments of our lives seem exciting by comparison.

People who write poetry (or “poets”) often turn their thoughts to springtime. About once a year, I’d guess.

I can’t recall any examples of spring-themed poems right now. But I’m sure there’s a poem that makes reference to at least one of the seasons.

Come to think of it, there’s a famous sonnet in which Shakespeare writes, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?”

If a poet said that to me, I’d be like, “What’s the catch?”

Even if Sonnet 18 doesn’t mention spring exactly, it does refer to summer quite openly. To which I say, “Close enough.”

Because––and forgive me for waxing poetic––spring is the appetizer of summer.

The cenotaph outside the Auckland War Memorial Museum is a replica of the one in London memorializing the English killed in World War I. According to the Museum's Website, the design was copied using cinema newsreels because the blueprints were too expensive. "Poet" Rudyard Kipling provided the epitaph.

Except, I really don’t like the word appetizer, especially on a menu. Isn’t the very fact of going to a restaurant proof that one already wants to eat and therefore is in no need of having their appetite stimulated? Wouldn’t it make more business-sense to offer appetizers at the end, thus enticing customers to start all over again despite having just eaten a full meal?

Here’s a multiple-choice exercise to illustrate what I’m talking about:

It’s late one Friday afternoon and you say to your significant other, “I have absolutely no desire to eat.”  Your significant other replies:

  1. That’s fine as long as it doesn’t interfere with my drinking.
  2. But without food, how are we supposed to plug-up your pie-hole?
  3. Let’s go to a restaurant. We might have to make a reservation; you know how a lot of people don’t feel like eating on a Friday night.

If you chose number 3, chances are you own a restaurant that serves appetizers at the start of a meal, and you don’t live in New Zealand. Because the restaurants in New Zealand don’t have appetizers. They only have “entrées” followed by “mains” followed by “severe cramps and diarrhea.”

So despite the effects of destructive snow storms in mid-September, we can finally welcome spring, the entrée of summer, the time of year when the beauty and innocence of nature arouses the poets in us…

An anthurium just hanging around the hot house at the Auckland Domain's Wintergarden.

Jacquie and I celebrated the arrival of spring, and our third anniversary (leather) on Sept. 29, with a trip to the Auckland Domain.

We had lunch at the Museum then took a stroll through the Wintergarden.

The giant lily pad will spread only when properly titillated.

An orchid. If you look closely, you can seen an insect going down on it.

This waxflower is characterized by a hairy calyx.

The following Sunday we went to the Auckland Botanical Gardens.

Cherries and daffodils.

The tulip, up-close and personal.

Inside lily.

We were so casual about things, we never caught the names of these trees.

Flowers

Not sure what this is either.

A new section still under construction.