Martha’s Backyard


This is a special time for a special lady and the entire world is sitting up and taking notice, like a well-meaning but half-witted poodle.

It’s Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, and in New Zealand, everybody gets a three-day-weekend, as we also happen to be commemorating the monarch’s 86th birthday. Everybody wins. I get to sleep late, England gets to enjoy the illusion of its own significance, and the Queen gets to look back on another year of opulent sloth.

If I’m coming off as harsh, it’s only because I’m jealous. Most unemployed, inbred, octogenarian people with dumb accents spend their birthdays like any other day. By spitting tobacco juice out of their toothless gobs onto the heads of the grandchildren eating dirt in front of the porch and don’t even notice anyway. Oh, no. Not the Queen. That’s not her scene. No, Queen Elizabeth gets something special. A thousand-vessel flotilla up the Thames, including a waka.

I’m sorry. I guess I just don’t understand the royal prerogative. In America, we don’t have a person who inherits the mantle of statehood by dint of genetic composition; who earns, simply from having been born, the deference of a nation, and the power to rule it supremely, for life. In America, anybody can be a douchebag.

And most of us are. It is no glowing, jingoistic hyperbole, but a simple, historic fact the Declaration of Independence civilly GUARANTEES an individual’s inalienable right to being a douchebag, specifically in the pursuit of happiness. America has come through with flying colours, as far as I’m concerned, in the protection of THIS, OUR PREMIER among several DOUCHEBAG FREEDOMS. From slavery, to the Vietnam War, to American Idol, what happiness could be greater than the joy we take in the suffering of others? That’s why America rebelled in the first place: why should the Royal Family have all the Schadenfreude?

New Zealand never broke with the mother country the way America did. So it’s easy to understand why some Kiwis look to the throne with Britannic pride. She’s still Queen Regnant here, albeit more figurehead than executive, and the visit she made to New Zealand 60 years ago still makes the odd person stop in the middle of the street and break out in tears remembering the occasion. In fact, I had an experience the other day when I found this strange rock in the alley by our flat.

One of our neighbors told us that it was a coprolite. I was suddenly excited by my discovery. It touched my imagination. What ancient creature could possibly have generated this fossilized piece of crap? The neighbor, however, explained that it was not from any dinosaur, but it was from 1953, when the Queen paid a royal visit to the region, shitting everywhere she went, including New Zealand.

According to my neighbor, Elizabeth had tried to hold it in for as long as possible, so as not to have to use a toilet that someone else might have used. But two months is a long time, even for a royal sphincter. Also, Elizabeth was constantly being fed. And though she spat into a napkin as much of the food as she could without anyone seeing, it was obvious to her staff that she must evacuate her royal person, or die. Or die trying. They conferred, and seeing the royal doctor’s wisdom, she decided to shit as soon as she landed in Auckland. Her one caveat was that she still refused to sit on strange toilets, and when given the choice of having a new toilet manufactured for the occasion, or shit standing up, the queen chose the latter.

Whenever Elizabeth stopped to address a crowd, she would take that opportunity to shit and be adored by her subjects at the same time. My neighbor said some observant Aucklanders noticed and collected them as souvenirs of the royal visit.

“That’s amazing,” I said. “But how in the world did the Queen’s shit get fossilized in 60 years?”

My neighbor seemed perplexed.

“What do you mean ‘fossilised'” he said. “It came out that way.”

Still, Elizabeth’s reign is impressive. She’s spent more time doing nothing than any other monarch in British History, besides her great, great grandmother, Victoria, who celebrated her60th year of indolence in 1897. Considering this historic achievement, I think now’s a good time to write about my recent trip to Martha’s Backyard.

The last time I visited this emporium of American brands was a little more than two years ago, before it moved to Harvey Norman Plaza.

If you haven’t been there since the relocation, the new spot is a vast improvement. In the first place, it’s bigger, with wider aisles to accommodate the ample American ass. There are far more products in stock, apparently more staff who pay attention to inventory, and generally a superior, easier shopping experience than the last place. Best of all, it occupies a dominant corner of a soulless, suburban shopping center, with plenty of parking, which should satisfy many Americans’ nostalgia for the Old Country.

Actually, I got to Martha’s Backyard a little early the Saturday I went, so it was helpful to have a few other shops nearby to visit. I bought a rain jacket from a store where everything is made out of rubber, except the rubbers.

The day I went, I bought two jars of Vlasic pickles (Kiwis look at you funny when you mention savory pickles), a box of Cheerios, a box of Triscuits, some Mexican hot sauce, and something else, all of which I mixed into a bowl and dipped in a fat-fryer.

I didn’t get any Pop Tarts, but there is something at Martha’s Backyard for everybody. Even if you’re not from America. The day I went, I heard quite a few Kiwi accents talking about how they remembered this or that thing from when they’d visited the States. But even those who’ve never left New Zealand can find something in New Zealand to like.

There’s even an aisle that I think Bishop Brian Tamaki of the Destiny Church might be interested in.

Now that I look at these pictures again and think about the significance of the Diamond Jubilee, I’m compelled to make an observation.

The queen might have been big here 60 years ago, but with America’s cultural domination, political influence, and bullying of the local judiciary, as illustrated by the Megaupload case, I have just one thing to say to Her Majesty on behalf of America. Hands off, lady. New Zealand’s our bitch now.

An Actual Visit to Martha’s Backyard

A few weeks ago, Jacquie and I were swilling buckets full of the local vintage with our friend Rob, an American who moved to New Zealand when he was a teenager, and never looked back. Or if he did ever look back, it was only to make sure nobody was following him.

Anywho, Rob had just returned from a visit to the States where, as he told it, he ate a lot of the sort of food you just can’t find anywhere else on Earth. Or in New Zealand, for that matter. Rob said the only vegetables he ingested during his trip were onion rings.

Inevitably, the conversation got around to the subject of pickles.

“The only place to get a decent pickle in Auckland is from Martha’s Backyard,” Rob said.

“What a coincidence,” I said. “I wrote an authoritative piece about Martha’s Backyard for my insanely popular and internationally acclaimed blog.”

“Oh, so you’ve been to Martha’s Backyard?” Rob said.

“Never,” I said.

“So you espoused a strong opinion based on hearsay and not on the weight of empirical evidence?”

“Well, I’m mostly writing for an American audience.”

Rob convinced me that it was time to go on a fact-finding mission. I needed to see Martha’s Backyard for myself so I could figure out what I’d been talking about.

Martha's Backyard. Technically, there is no backyard. Unless you count Stonefields, a defunct quarry at the foot of Mt. Wellington, which is slowly being turned into a gruesome-looking subdivision.

Martha’s Backyard wasn’t like what I’d expected it to be. It was the only shop in a dusty strip mall beside a gigantic housing development that had been under construction for almost four years but seemed to have run out of credit before a tenth of it was built. Naturally, I was overcome with homesickness. Then, when Rob and I went inside the shop, I was overcome with regular sickness. For stretched before me, as far as the eye could see––about 60 feet to the back wall––was a row-and-a-half of good old American-made (mostly*) junk food.


Say "cheese product."

And all along I thought you couldn't get a decent pizza in New Zealand.

We looked around but to our disappointment we couldn’t find any pickles. Then we brought our stuff up to the cashier.

“Hello,” Rob said. He pointed to me. “This is an American.”

“Oh, sorry,” the cashier said. “No refunds.”

I paid for the things that I’d grabbed off the shelf at random, to tell the truth. I bought an eight-pack of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups*, a “family sized” bottle of French’s yellow mustard and some bunting to spruce up the apartment, all for about $17 (U.S.)

Then Rob and I drove up to the top of Mt. Wellington where we got a decent view of the $2 billion, 270-acre (less than half the size of Prospect Park in Brooklyn) housing development which some day 6,500 people may call home if the developers ever get around to finishing it.

Stonefields Urban Village. Never will you find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy.

Then I went home and inspected my booty.

And seeing that my booty was good, I then looked at the stuff that I bought at Martha’s Backyard.

These colors don't run. Most likely because they're filled with emulsifiers. Most of the 1.3 kilograms of Americany Goodness you see here was actually made in America*.

Then I ate the peanut butter cups*, the Fritos and the Bugles.

Then I washed them down with some mustard.

Then I ate fried chicken made with the Progresso bread crumbs.

Then I…oh, whatever. You get the picture.

All in all I was glad Rob took me to that shop, but I probably won’t go back. Not unless they get a shipment of decent pickles.

Otherwise, I think I’ve about had it with American-y Goodness

*Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups: Hecho en Mexico.