Parnell Road

Sunshine and rubbish

Parnell gets the best light of anywhere in Auckland.

Situated on a ridge with a north-western exposure, Parnell today is considered one of the city’s oldest suburbs situated on a ridge with a north-western exposure. This combination of ridge-sitting and northwestern-facing-ness joins together to form the most unique blending anyone could ask for in a neighborhood.

Pinko-Commie-bastard Samuel Duncan Parnell was the first newcomer to acknowledge that “Parnell is chocka sunshine”.

Geyser Parnell at corner of Garfield Street

It’s a lot more fun walking in Parnell than in most other neighborhoods here, which tend to be huge stretches of dull, suburban landscapes, better to drive through than to walk.

The pedestrian-scale streets, bestride with both residential and commercial properties make you really believe that Auckland is a city, after all.

Parnell does a New Yorker’s heart good, especially the rubbish. Nothing is more urban-ish than trash. And nothing helps to create a better sense of neighborhood than picking through your neighbor’s garbage. We always did that growing up. Where else do you think we got all our furniture? (The old black-and-white set we found never worked, but we always got a kick out of the rat that was trapped behind the screen).


It’s easy just to say, ‘hello’ to someone in passing on the way to work. But when you take the trouble to find out about somebody first, you turn a casual greeting into a powerful community building moment. In fact, just the other day, I was able to let the woman in Apartment 6 know that I was “there for her” when we saw each other in the laundry room.

“How are you going?” she said.

A lot better than you,” I told her. “Thank god for the morning-after pill, eh?”

Jacquie later explained to me that the reason why the woman in Apartment 6 ran off crying was probably because she felt embarrassed and vulnerable that I had been so prying as to look through her rubbish. I hastened to point out that, technically speaking, it wasn’t really “her rubbish” once it was in the rubbish bin, and that if she didn’t want the neighborhood nosing in her business, she shouldn’t have left her morning-after pill packaging lying around in the third bag from the top mixed in with some the remains of a Chinese take-away and a whole lot of used kitty litter.

If that’s how it’s going to be, then I won’t be doing much community building anymore. As Jesus said, a community builder is never welcome on his own block.

The trash problem isn’t always found in the rubbish bin, I’m afraid. As the New Zealand Herald reported two weeks ago, there was a bag of rubbish found on the street in Parnell. That was right outside our house. One morning, I went out there and it was right in the middle of the road, obviously tossed from the driver’s side of a moving car.

Stubborn as I am, I decided to give neighborhood-building one more chance. Against my better judgement, and feeling taken for granted, I decided to remove the litter.


It was one of those plastic grocery bags, and from a distance, it seemed to be the remains of a meal from a Subway sandwich shop.

It turned out to be much more than that. It was a window into the mysterious Parnell folkways. Inside the bag with the Subway wrapper were also an empty can of Red Bull, a plastic baggy filled with the remains of a crystalline substance, and the crème de la crème, a used condom. All of which spilled through a previously undetected hole, and onto the road, splashing at my feet as I picked it up off the ground.

Needless to say, my community spirit began to flag. On the bright side, I found a used condom, and what a fascinating find it turned out to be. Through scientific methodology and analysis, one can determine what the typical date of a Parnell-couple consists of.

The single Subway sandwich wrapper is indicative of the sophistication and refined taste that Parnell is known for. What it also tells us is that the couple either shared a sandwich, or more likely, one part of the couple ate the sandwich while the other one was forced to watch. Washed down with a Red Bull, followed by the snorting and/or smoking of the crystalline substance, it was promising to be a very romantic evening, which is obviously where the condom comes in. Finally, the hole in the plastic bag, chucked out of the driver’s side window, was probably due to being dropped while at a high speed, a sure sign that the driver had an important engagement to attend to after dropping his or her partner off somewhere (presumably while the car was at a rest).

Getting away from it all

Parnell has a lot of travel agencies.

Sancho, STA, Flight Centre, and my favorite chain, House of Travel. It’s kind of a cute name for a travel agency.

It makes you think of drinking cheap wine in the open doorway of a freight car. The contradictory pair of “house” with “travel” must be what they call Kiwi Humor. It has to be. What is a “house of travel”, except maybe a caboose, a recreational vehicle or a snail. Talk about your narrow market focus.

In fact I can’t think of anyone in this day and age of speedy travel through an advanced transportation infrastructure who would even dream of going by snail.

They’re going by plane, naturally. And because of that, the travel agencies are going after their money.

There’s a poster hanging in every one of the agencies’ windows, beckoning one to hurry up and visit Europe. Why? Do they think I’m going to make an impulse purchase of an expensive holiday in Venice? I’m lucky when I can afford to top-up my bus pass.

The weird thing about the agencies competing for your custom is they all use the exact same picture poster. They just print different messages, tailored to their intended customers.

Here’s the first example.

If you’re having trouble reading the material, don’t worry.  I enhanced the photo. Now it’s legible.

The competitors are obviously competing for different parts of the market.

When it comes to catering to customer preferences–coach, deluxe, holiday tours–this next agency knows exactly what it’s doing

Down the road, there’s this clever twist which is advertising two destinations, in a quite subtle way.

Finally, we all know that Venice is sinking. And the last agency is using that fear to entice their customers.

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.

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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