Hangry Planet

Just on the other side of the freeway from the national cemetery sits the Hangry Planet mini mart. It’s just a convenience store at a gas station, but it’s vegan and is very proudly making that point on its social media and, obviously, with its signage. Good on ya, I say, although you are perhaps reinforcing the stereotypes about vegans talking about being vegan.

In their parking lot over by the self-service car vacuum is this statue of Alfredina the T-Rex. A sign reads “Any visual interpretations here of Putin as a nefarious monster worthy of being consumed by Alfredina amounts to coincidental community art not necessarily reflective of the perspectives of The Hangry Planet or Tanforan Shell.” Whatever you say.


I’d never been to San Bruno, CA until landing at SFO last Friday and transferring to the convenient and surprisingly nice Marriott Courtyard there.

Overall, I’d say San Bruno is left off the tourist itineraries with good reason… it’s mostly nondescript housing, under the flight path, and criss-crossed by freeways and railroad tracks.

And yet… getting off the BART train I was deposited into The Shops at Tanforan, a half-empty mall. And it turns out that the mall sits on the former site of Tanforan racetrack, which in turn was the main site used to stage the detention of San Francisco’s Japanese-descended people during WWII. From there, they were transported to the Topaz internment camp. In addition to this memorial, there’s a nice interpretive display in the BART station describing the internment and its legacy.

At some point before starting this blog, while trawling through the used books at a Salt Lake City thrift store I found a moderately rare book about the Topaz experience. I was able to donate it to the group that was raising funds for a Topaz museum, which has since opened.

And so, while San Bruno won’t be competing with Fisherman’s Wharf for tourist dollars anytime soon, there are more reasons to visit than I would have thought at first glance. I was glad to add another serendipitous link in my chain of places and stories.

Operatic Sydney Busker

This woman had a great set of pipes and a good sound system, so you faintly heard the music a block away. I couldn’t tell if she was a truly good singer or not, but she was certainly good at tugging on the heartstrings!

Action Man

That, my fellow Americans, and my formerly European friends in the still for the moment United Kingdom, is Action Man.

Action Man was G.I. Joe in other markets and has quite a history. How he ended up wearing this rather unconventional collection of accessories (outside of the highly sought after Action For Men Rainbow NightClub play set) is unknown.

We met him on the way in to tour an open house that we were already leery about… would a large complex of townhouses we can afford be a bit too noisy and full of kids for us? Yes, said Action Man, it will. It most certainly will.

Air time

One of the people who also arrived early for this morning’s flight to Christchurch was Gwen, pictured above. She’d been traveling for 36 hours following a cruise in Scandinavia. Missed a connection. A bit wired up. Lost her luggage.

She’s written a book about her life, reviewed above. Does a lot of motivational speaking. She took my card and said she’ll send me a copy, here’s hoping!

Singapore Gardens by the Bay

We had a nice tour of Singapore’s giant garden domes. I think they have to keep the plants indoors because it’s too hot outside.

Giant indoor waterfall

Cherry blossoms


All the pictures above are things you’d expect to find in a botanical garden.

More surprising … downright surreal in fact… was the All-Stars of Cosplay convention.

I am a little uncomfortable around a lot of this cosplay stuff, to be honest. But this family of tourists was all in and didn’t share my queasiness, and it was cool to watch mom and kid having such a good time.

Ngockin aroung Ngunguru

We are up north this weekend visiting ex-boss Tom at his family farm in Tutukaka. But the hotel there wanted way too much for a room, so we found an Airbnb in Ngunguru, the ngext towng over. Pronungciation has beeng a topic. There’s no hard G, so no gurus in Ngunguru.


Ngunguru sits on an estuary. There’s a few hundred houses, a mix of second homes, retirees, and some people who make the commute into Whangarei. Pretty sleepy.

The next morning we went for a walk around. Despite there being nothing to see, we saw a lot…

The jandal fence.

The time capsule.

A whole series of funny little ant-themed pictures on the sidewalk.

The blue car that drove off the road.

A funny sign at the golf course and sports complex clubhouse.

And more. Would you want to spend your remaining time here? I don’t think I would, but it’s always a nice surprise to find some of the “more than meets the eye” stuff that surely exists everywhere.

Hot roddin’

Last weekend we loaded the tandem into the van (I can hear some people yawning already) and headed up to Orewa to check out the Te Ara Tahuna Estuary Cycleway and Walking Track.

The ride was lovely, although we got lost in subdivisions a couple of times (welcome to Orewa, where you can check out any time you want…)

But wait, there’s more! We were apparently the only people in New Zealand who didn’t know that Orewa over Anniversary weekend means hot rods. Lotsa lotsa hot rods.

I’m not really a hot rod guy, mostly for political/ snobbery reasons… those are, for the most part, not my people. But OMG the cars are magnificent. The giant engines, clean enough to eat off. You can reach into the metal-flake paint jobs up to your elbow. It’s all good: the ball fringe, the greasy food truck smells, the Betty Boop costumes.

And of course it’s almost all Americana. There were maybe 5 or 10% right hand drive cars… the rest was pure Detroit. There were more Mustangs and Camaros than anything else. We pulled in to the sounds of Johnny Cash, and later saw a very convincing Polynesian Elvis grinding away on the little bandshell stage, mopping his face in the heat.

Part of me does wonder, back to the political/ snobbery discussion, whether there’s a need for some additional work so that the next generation of li’l rodders is more fully empowered and socially tolerant than those that came before. But in the meantime, listen to that engine roar!!

Sing we now

Coming home the other night we happened across a carol sing in the Cathedral courtyard. Fun! But warm weather Christmas still feels funny.

Of all the brewpubs in all the towns in all the world, I walked into hers

That’s me and Mavis at the Fork and Brewer in Wellington, where she works behind the bar.

I was in town for a conference, and went out with the gang for an(other) drink after the big dinner, as you do.

Regular readers will recognize Mavis as the former keyboards player for the Snaz, who played a memorable concert on my deck back in Brattleboro after we helped them raise money to get to SXSW a few years ago.


She didn’t really remember me for myself (a friend once told me, when we were both a lot younger than I am now, that the most obvious consequence of hitting whatever age milestone was that he had become utterly invisible to teenage girls), but we had a nice chat anyway.

Small world… or is it? In this case, we wouldn’t have even seen each other except that my waitress was also American and so the “where you from” conversation uncovered the Vermont connection. But if this amazing coincidence happened, then how many times have I actually been just as close to someone I know without ever finding out?

Falun Wrong

On Friday the Falun Gong people were out silently protesting their fellows’ persecution back in China. I was instantly beset with a welter of conflicting thoughts…

  • Good to be in a place where people can feel safe enough to protest in public like that
  • Why in the world would China feel a need to persecute people for doing their little morning exercises… there must be more to the story
  • But my notion of freedom seems to not quite apply in China. And their brand of society seems to be pretty amazingly successful these days.
  • Forced organ harvesting? Really? In the hundreds of thousands? Really? Wouldn’t we have heard more?
  • Or not… can we trust the media to report on the important issues?
  • Yeah, actually, I think we can, more or less
  • So, good luck with your protest, I hope you find happiness somehow.

Hail fellow and well met

Walking along over the weekend, we came across this scene involving a big machine ripping the front off a building (already under some kind of re/construction), and a very large contingent of emergency personnel. The scene was apparently unfolding just then, so we stopped to gawk. We saw some wisps of smoke, but it could have just been construction dust. 

One of the other gawkers was a big guy in a security guard uniform, and we got to chatting. He was from South Africa, been here about 8 years. He couldn’t say enough good about NZ, what a great place to raise his boys, how honest the police are, great people all over, and so on. 

Nothing dramatic happened across the street, so we took our leave and went on, smiling. 

The Emblem Museum

We went for an afternoon walk about town yesterday and chanced on a signboard that read “Emblem Museum.” Ok, I’ll bite…

It’s upstairs near Bhava Yoga on Elliot Street, and a beautiful space. It’s really two rooms full of paintings, which take their inspiration from Ethiopian scrolls and a Victorian travel book found in an attic. 

Julia Zanes, the artist and proprietor, greeted us warmly. We learned that ‘museum’ might not be quite the right word, but ‘gallery’ sounded too commercial.   She explained both the creative and physical processes behind the painting series, which resonated with me… finding this this old F. Hopkinson Smith book in the attic of her new home, connecting somehow with these old scrolls, hanging out with someone who just happens to do gold leaf… and a few hundred hours later you have Art. And art we liked, it would look good in this house. 

As a side project she makes puppets and does puppetry, because why not, and hopes to put on shows for kids, but maybe with less disturbing puppets, so they don’t cry. Good idea, but as grown ups we thought the creepy puppets were really cool. And also creepy. 

Can Brattleboro support another somewhat esoteric gallery/museum? One is hopeful, but… I’m glad we got to see it and meet her now. 

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