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essays | places
Franz Josef Glacier / New Zealand · 2009 turquoise mirror
New Zealand was nature getting high on its own supply. Every landscape you could imagine the twin-island could materialize for you behind the next bend in the road. Rain forest – Abracadabra – there! Glacier – Tada! Open sesame – a waterfall! It was absurdly beautiful. Throw a stone and you'll likely hit a seal, a penguin, or a sheep. So don't throw a stone. And the people: sweets.
Moeraki Boulders Beach / New Zealand · 2009 titan bowling
Sandfly Bay / New Zealand · 2009 sand ramp
Christchurch / New Zealand · 2009 up to ups
New Zealand · 2009 came and went
Milford Sound / New Zealand · 2009 the calm after the storm
places / stories
North Island / To Be in the Moment or to Be in a Long-Distance Relationship
Mt Eden, Auckland / New Zealand · 2009 friendly crater
A semester abroad, on paper, our sojourn in New Zealand was certainly more abroad than semester. A mildly pesky course or two for some lousy credits, none of it too much of a distraction from life. The three of us – me and my two fellow friends from home – rented a house near the university in Albany, a suburb of Auckland that was so far out that you couldn’t feel Auckland at all. Stevie set up the same life he’d lived back home, while Sarah and I tried to shed as many familiar routines as possible. A campervan trip, a sub-sojourn in Tonga – every inch and second, new.
New Zealand · 2009 flowing, falling, flowing
Huka Falls / New Zealand · 2009 turquoise turmoil
I’d also brought a long-distance relationship with me that was now longer still – Mexico to New Zealand. It was love, true and meteoric and beatific, the kind that should come with a warning label. None of that flat and trivial off-the-rack stuff. And that kind of acute love is painless dedication, but dedication nonetheless, bondage for the heart until forever’s last kiss. We spent hours and hours on Skype, not monthly or weekly, but daily, worshipping each other’s magnetic lips. Made it hard to be in the moment. Of course, being outside the moment felt righter and sweeter, and if there was anything to miss out on, I would have missed out on it by being in the moment. Or so my love-stricken heart thought. And maybe it was right, or maybe spellbound, or maybe it was lazy. Our togetherness apart was a sort of silky solitude, and our polestar never portended an end, let alone in such unlikely proximity.
If I had divined the inferno ahead, maybe I had chosen the moment over the long distance, been in it more, been in those parties more. Those affairs were wild and cute at the same time. These Kiwis seemed to be getting their first whiff of alcohol in college. The drinking age was 18 and harsh fines made sure that supermarkets and bars applied strict scrutiny, or else. They even had signs in the supermarkets, something along the lines of “Take it as a compliment if we ask for your age.” And if you appeared drunk, you couldn’t get into the bars whereas elsewhere big spenders like that would be welcomed like Louis XIV. They would also cut you off at the bar if they thought you had enough, which was never when you thought you had enough. Sarah wasn’t having it that first time, and so she poured herself another beer from the tap when nobody was looking. When the waitress saw her with a full glass in her hand, she was livid. All lies were to no avail. “We don’t pour beer in these glasses,” she replied dry as salt. Then she went into the back to roll the security tape. The beer heist had been blown. When she came back, she threatened to call the police. We preferred to pay for the beer and get going.
Albany / New Zealand · 2009 one night love
Albany / New Zealand · 2009 first semester of adolescence
Another time we were much luckier. We went for a Chali 2na gig in Auckland, and while I got us some drinks, Sarah made friends with a stewardess. Turned out she was staying in the same hotel as the musician and gotten to know him over breakfast. After the gig he invited her backstage, and us too by proxy. Cocktails as tall as rain boots and joints as fat as ice cream cones. I had a little heart-to-heart chat with the nonchalant Tuna Fish with the deep-sea voice, raving about Jurassic 5 and alternative hip hop classics.
Auckland / New Zealand · 2009 boiling fish tank
Auckland / New Zealand · 2009 backstage beat
Auckland / New Zealand · 2009 2na tornado
South Island / Godscapes
Southern Alps / New Zealand · 2009 mountain maze
Milford Sound / New Zealand · 2009 sea mountains
If the North Island had been beautiful, the South Island was stunning. It was a bit like the difference between Newfoundland and British Columbia – idyllic, picturesque fishing coasts as opposed to awe-inspiring vertigo-mountains and psychedelic lakes. On the North Island I could climb into those soft, verdant hills, pull a meadow over me, take a nap. On the South Island I had to stand, awestruck by the severity of these Godscapes.
New Zealand · 2009 vertical stream
Cannibal Bay / New Zealand · 2009 nature's jungle gym
New Zealand · 2009 rock nuggets
New Zealand · 2009 water monster
The country was mad with nature down there.
Sandfly Bay / New Zealand · 2009 inland sand
Farewell Spit / New Zealand · 2009 standing up to the wind
New Zealand · 2009 hidden human
Himalayas / Hiking Alone, Astray & Everestless
when you set out to see Everest, but Everest doesn’t care
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