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?”

The Neighborly Thing to Do

I hate my upstairs neighbor. He thinks he’s so cool. Just because he’s a Morris Dancer. He’s always throwing it in my face. Hitting my face with his ankle bells and handkerchiefs, driving around my face in his 2002 Honda Civic hatchback. Show-off.

His name is Dabney. He’s a defense contractor. Dabney’s job is to toughen-up recruit-training through the pageantry of Morris Dancing.

A New Zealand Special Forces Morris Dancer trains his entire life for this moment. No Morris Dancer would go into battle without his stick and bell-pads.

What a jerk. His whole family is a bunch of jerks. They’re very noisy. His wife Daphne gets her exercise by going up and down the stairs late every night. I wouldn’t mind it so much, but the sound of her hoofs clopping on the wood makes it difficult for me to fall asleep.

Their daughter is loud too. Polly-Anastasia studies music at University, according to some of her mail I’ve been opening. She’s been practicing day and night for a big audition. I’m no Broadway expert, but judging by the sound of Polly’s voice, I think she’s going out for a part in Bronchitis, The Musical. If there is such a thing. Otherwise, it’s probably an adaptation of The Lion King, but instead of Africa, it’s set in the Everglades and features a herd of echolocating manatees.

But the thing I hate most about Dabney is his annoying friendliness. Like, Jacquie and I hadn’t lived in New Zealand for two seconds before he got all up in our shit introducing himself. He even tried to get us to join the local Welsh Choir. “Don’t worry,” he said. “Only 40 percent of the songs are in Welsh.”

Why in hell would we want to do that? In the first place, everyone knows that Welsh is a made-up language. How about I throw a bunch of silverware on the floor and call that a language? Same difference. And secondly, when a friend of one of Jacquie’s friends found out that I was considering taking Dabney up on his offer, she pooh-poohed the idea. She said that people who join choirs were “the biggest douchebags in the world.” That settled it. There was no way that I was going to socialize and be stimulated by a novel experience if that meant incurring the casual disparagement of a complete stranger.

And the more I thought about what the stranger said, the more it made sense. Dabney wasn’t even from Wales. Just what kind of non-Welsh douchebag joins a Welsh choir? Then I realized the answer: a Morris Dancer. That’s who.

Recently, this douchebag gave me one more reason to hate him. One day I came home from shopping for breakfast stuff at the supermarket, my arms filled with potato chips and vodka. There was Dabney, working on one of his Morris Dances. He was so excited, he insisted on teaching me the moves. The routine involved us taking turns hitting each other over the head with aluminum beer trays. I have to admit, I found the experience so pleasurable that I actually started to think of Dabney as a person, and not as a douchebag. I even shook his hand.

Big mistake. Because a few days later, my hand broke out in mysterious, bulbous nodes, which Jacquie identified as “buboes.”

Thanks for the buboes, douchebag.

Well, that just tore me up. You act nice to a guy, indulge his passion for a 15th century dance form, and what does he do? He turns around and literally hands you a medieval plague. This called for immediate action. With the daily clopping, shrieking and jingling coming from upstairs, we had to fight back, fight fire with fire.

“Jacquie, we have to end our moratorium on farting.”

“No. No. You promised.”

This was serious business. A few weeks before, Jacquie and I got into a huge fight. She was angry because I had allowed trichotillomania, an impulse control disorder, to ruin my life. The trichotillomaniac has the irresistible urge to pull out his body hair. Jacquie said that I did it too much and she wanted me to stop. But I said I only plucked my hair as a nervous response to Jacquie’s constant farting. She disagreed but we made a deal. If she could go for 72 hours and fart only in authorized areas, then I would stop plucking my hair out. And by God we did it. The apartment went quiet. Air smelled fresher, food tasted better, and for the first time in six years, I had eyebrows.

Until Dabney gave me buboes.

“I’m sorry, Jacquie. Ending the moratorium is the only way.”

“Does this mean that–”

“I’m afraid it does.”

So I began to pluck and we both farted as much as we could.

As a trichotillomaniac, I managed to pluck right down to my skull, which turned out to be more angular than I thought it was when I had hair.

But it worked. We won in the end. Ater a few weeks of plucking and farting, I went up to Dabney to show him my hairless head. We could hear Jacquie farting in the background. Tears came to our eyes. From the fumes. And Dabney began to cry and apologize for everything.

But I still have the buboes there to remind me of the war I fought, and won, against the Morris Dancing douchebag upstairs.

Sunshine on my buboes makes me happy.

Buboes make ideal features on topographical maps.