Auckland Domain

Evening in Parnell at the dawn of spring

A lot of Kiwis have been really excited lately.

“Spring is coming,” they say, with a little sparkle of something in their eyes.

By cultural tradition, September 1 is the first day of spring.

When anyone over the last week gave me the good news, I would happily correct them. That’s not true, I would say, astronomically speaking we still have  another few weeks of dark, dank, miserable winter to suffer through before we are anywhere near spring.

Coincidentally, and slightly off topic, I have felt my popular status among the local population dwindle over these last few days. My unfavorables are through the roof. Here I am trying to edify my friends and colleagues. And all they can think to do in return is get all seasonally defensive, saying to me things like, “why’d you have to bum me out like that” and “shut up, you’ll jinx it” and “I want a divorce.” Apparently, Kiwis don’t like it when you confront their little fantasy worlds with the cold, hard facts.

But allow me to be serious. New Zealanders wouldn’t know a nice spring if Julie Andrews ran to the top of Mt Eden singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music”. New Zealand just isn’t situated in the Tropic of Fuzzy Warm Bumble Bees and Rainbow, as might be idealized by a north hemispherean. So what New Zealand undergoes at this time of year, and well into October, even November, is more like Winter’s younger, more optimistic brother.

Which is fine with me, because winter really isn’t so bad. Aucklanders like to complain about the cold, and what a drag it is that it’s raining again, as if it were supposed to be different. They don’t know how mild it is here and not coming from New York City, they don’t know what pain is. So I don’t blame them. But I’ll be damned if I am going to stand by and wish someone a happy spring when it’s still another three weeks away.

I think it has gotten to the point where even strangers are wary of me. They see me from a block away and have the intuition to regard me as a disagreeable humbug.

This happened to me Thursday evening, about six. I was just hanging out in front of my house. Not unlike a cat gazing stupidly from a window on an empty parking lot.

All of a sudden I notice this young couple coming down the block, a guy and a gal. They walked in my direction, eyeing me with suspicion. They stopped talking, and would not resume again until they thought they were out of hearing. As they walked away, the woman said to the man, “There are only so many arguments you can have.” The man said something in response that I could not make out, leaving me to wonder what the woman had meant. I mean, I know it’s about me, but I just can’t figure out yet how. The only way it makes sense is if the “arguments” she mentioned refer to my insistence on telling people the truth about the first day of spring. And read that way, it is a veiled threat to have me silenced.

Then later that night, I was in front of my house again, sniffing some leaves for signs of enemy cat incursions on my territory.

This time, a guy on a moped came roaring up the street. He pulled over into the parking slot of the business next door, kicking down the stand not twenty feet from, and in full view of, where I was standing. It seemed obvious that he wanted to make a scene. And for a moment, I felt as if it would turn violent. And I was right. He got off his moped, pulled down his zipper and took a piss against the wall. So that’s how they’re going to play their vengeful little mind games.

If the lesson they want to teach me here is never tell them that Spring starts on September 23 and not September 1, then they can give me my F right now. I’m not in this to be popular. I stand for the truth and I’ll stand my ground. And if I do that by acting out behaviors I picked up from my role model, who is my cat, that’s just my business. Now please enjoy some pictures I took.

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.


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

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.


Not sure what this is either.

A new section still under construction.