Auckland Railway Station

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

Enjoying the Auckland Waterfront

New Zealand will host the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

I know, I know. I’m just as excited as you are.

Especially because this means that Rand McNally has finally agreed to include New Zealand in all its future world atlases.

And also because Auckland stands to gain a “party central” venue, a place where rugby fans from every nation can beat the shit out of one another in the name of friendly competition and excessive inebriation.

“Party central” was originally slated for Queens Wharf.

The plan was scrapped after some people opposed the razing of two old cargo sheds––having some historical value––to make room for the venue.

The bustle of Queens Wharf on a sunny weekend afternoon; there's nothing quite like it. Or it's quite like nothing. I get confused sometimes. Shed 10 (left) was erected in 1914 while Shed 11 was erected in 1911 while Shed 10 likely will remain erect beyond 2011, while Shed 11 is to be shed after 2010.

I was curious about the sheds. I left the house on Sunday to check out the waterfront and see what the controversy was about.

But the biggest jerk in the world, my neighbor Dabney Von Troll was blocking my path.

“Do you have a minute?” he said.

“Oh, uh, I was just on my way to, um, to have something removed…to have my….self removed…from here.”

“I promise to make this quick.”

“Ugh. OK. If you have to.”

“I had to go to hospital the other day. I was having terrible chest pains.”

“Is this story going to take much longer?”

“At first the doctor thought it was a heart attack. But as it turned out I was going into labor.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know. With a gas baby. I had no idea I was even pregnant with a gas baby. But there I was in my gown, worried about my heart, when all of a sudden I start going into labor.  The proctologist came to see me and confirmed that I was dilated: I was definitely ready to fart. Just then, I let rip a big one and out came my beautiful gas baby. Good thing I was already in the hospital, otherwise I might have had my gas baby in an elevator or on a bus or something. Well, it wasn’t an ideal gas baby birth. I prefer to have my gas babies in a heated swimming pool or a warm bath. It’s much less strenuous that way and it eases the gas baby’s transition into the world by recreating the conditions the gas baby enjoyed while inside me. Well, anyway, it was a quick labor in the end, so to speak. I had triplets. They’re resting comfortably inside. You want to meet them?”


“Good. Now you  know exactly how I feel every time you and your wife blow a fart.”

“Excuse me?”

“Look, man. Let me make this clear. The walls between our flats are very thin and very porous and every time you and your wife pass gas, not only can my family hear the disgusting sounds you make, but the smell drifts through the walls. Until you came along, I had no idea that ‘flat’ was short for ‘flatulence.’ So do me a favor, buddy. If you have gas, blow it out your ass. Someplace else. Or you’ll be sorry.”

“Uh…ok,” I said.

“Great,” Dabney said, smiling.  “She’ll stop by tomorrow. Thanks.”

He dashed into his house and closed the door behind him.

I realized then that the preceding dialog was not actually what had transpired between us but what I had WISHED had transpired between us and that I had completely blanked out what Dabney REALLY had said. All I knew for certain was that a girl or a woman was going to stop by my flat on Monday for reasons that were completely lost to me.

I walked down to the waterfront in a confused state, wondering what I’d gotten myself into.

Auckland's Central Business District as seen from Queens Wharf in a photograph that is almost identical to the one posted above.

"Enjoy your waterfront walkway." Normally, I would enjoy such an inviting landscape. But Dabney Von Troll's cryptic request continued to trouble me.

The Axis Bledisloe Container Terminal as seen from Quay Street.

"Attention Chilled Meat." New Zealand in 2009 exported $5.6 billion worth of beef, veal, lamb, mutton, venison and "other meat." It exported more "other meat" than it did venison. Very few people know what "other meat" is. They only know that it's delicious.

The Rainbow Warrior Memorial, beautifully situated in front of the Axis Bledisloe Container Terminal. Saturday, July 10th was the 25th anniversary of the sinking of the ship by French government agents at an adjoining wharf.

The mural.

Two Noell Straddle Carriers parked side-by-side. Sweet ride.

I’d been walking for hours. What had I agreed to do for Dabney? Had I committed myself to walking up and down the stairs with his wife, Daphne, in her daily Happy Troll Exercise Hour routine? Had I obliged myself to a recital of the young Polly-Anastasia Von Troll gargling, or whatever it was she did in the morning before heading off to study music at school, without the benefit of earplugs? The possibilities were gruesome.

I left the waterfront and walked past the old Auckland Railway Station.

This station served as a set for the 1983 movie Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence starring David Bowie.

I went inside. It cheered me up.

Inside the lobby. The station has been converted into residential housing, mostly for students attending the University of Auckland, which owns the property.

Standing in the old station was the next best thing to being shrunken down to 1:87 scale and placed in my idea of the perfect world (and yours), a world where the trains always run on time and everyone is made of plastic. A world where nobody ever heard of the Von Troll family. A world called Miniatur Wunderland. (Check out their official video here.)

The internal facade.

Then I left, ready to face whatever it was the Von Trolls had in store for me.

There's no "wrong side of the tracks" in Auckland.

A stranger knocked on the door the next day. She was about the same age as Polly-Anastasia. She explained to me that Dabney had said I’d be willing to give a donation.

“What a relief,” I said. “I thought the Von Trolls were going to make me do something heinous, like listen to them sing. Anyway, you don’t care about all that. You just want to get this over with don’t you? You’re a sweetheart. God bless, God bless. Now, what is this donation for again?”

“It’s for UNICEF, the international children’s charity.”

“Oh, no. I’m sorry. No. No way.”

“But, why not? Mr. Von Troll said you would.”

“Yeah, but that’s before I knew what it was. Sorry. No, uh. I have to, uh, go now. It’s kind of an emergency, I have to, um, have my…self…removed…from…you know.”

“But why wouldn’t you give to UNICEF?”

“Why?” I said. “Are you kidding? U-NI-CEF. LU-CI-FER. Get it? Do I have to draw you a picture?”