Caught in the act

It’s Saturday, errands to be run. There’s a nearby suburb with all the stores clumped together, so we go there fairly often and take care of stuff. Today it’s the home center for hot tub chemicals and a Sodastream refill, a store that sorta combines Michael’s and KMart to buy a curtain rod, and a cruise through a thrift shop or two.

But the dining options in the neighborhood aren’t great. There’s some fast food, a couple of scary Asian buffet places, a sad sports bar. And Denny’s.

Although Denny’s has several branches around town, we’ve never ventured in. But today was the day. Just a bit embarrassed, as if either we or NZ are somehow too good for Denny’s.

We got brewed coffee with refills, a real rarity in a place where ‘barista’ is a profession respectable enough to get you a work visa. There are many slam breakfasts and skillet breakfast. But also lamb shank and a couple of curry dishes you wouldn’t see in Missouri. And a full bar available, although it was a bit early for us. Without overtly throwing shade on my fellow diners, I’ll say that as a group they were doing their part to keep New Zealand’s population growing, and many of them seemed zealous in their support of New Zealand’s agricultural economy: eat local, and then maybe eat some more.

There was incongruous soft cocktail piano tinkling along in the background, and swans in the lagoon outside. Our waitress, a Chinese lady of a certain age, seemed quite abrupt at first, but warmed up and provided nice attentive service. If we see her again I bet she’ll call me ‘hon’.

All in all, it was reassuringly the same as we expected, and just foreign enough not to trigger some kind of nostalgic sadness. My skillet and Lee’s burger were fine… not quite the taste of home, but good enough to last us a while. Will we be back? 🤔

Finger licking good

I’m always happy to eat fried chicken, and I’m always happy for hot and spicy, especially here in the land of mild. I’ve passed Heartbreaker Hot Chicken several times in my recent trips to Wellington and finally stopped in the other night.

Although I could have cleared NZ airspace en route to Nashville before my food finally came out, it was pretty tasty! The potato salad was especially good. I’m not enough of an aficionado to know if it was ‘authentic’, but I’ll go back regardless.

This week in Wellington

Here’s a less common view of New Zealand’s famous beehive Parliament building, taken from around the corner as I walked up to the Ministry of Health building to try and get some IT issues sorted out. It’s dramatic, the Beehive, but unlovely in my view.

And below, the Wellington Cathedral of St Paul… originally designed as a war memorial cathedral in the 1930s. Not my favorite style, either… more solid than soaring.

Katabatic Flow on Mt Taranaki

Flying to Wellington yesterday morning on a more inland route than usual I got to watch these clouds flow down the western side of Mt Taranaki. Pretty amazing, I thought, but not amazing enough for the captain to say anything… so maybe this happens all the time. Just for reference, the pointy peak there is over 8000 feet. It’s a big ol’ volcano.

I didn’t know what to call it when the wind flows downhill like that, but luckily I’m re-reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars which had a reference to katabatic winds this afternoon. That slightly assuaged my guilt at reading something light when I could have been digesting a report on European Immunization Registers.

One Sweet Ride

Yesterday I got behind one of the many sugar trucks that chugs up the hill from the refinery past our house.

Note the license plate!

Ye Olde Birkenhead

The downtown business association has been trying mightily to bring people into the village, and we applaud their efforts.

This weekend they’ve put on a Renaissance Faire… of sorts. My expectations are high for this sort of thing, as I must’ve been pretty close to the Ren Faire epicenter going to the big one in Agoura CA back in the early 80s.

It’s a gray drizzly winter day, so the crowds probably are down some, but still not bad. And quite a few people dressed up, including our local MP, which I thought was cool.

Above is a guy getting put in the stocks… an obligatory activity.

One of the star attractions was a rare New Zealand unicorn. The line was short but we didn’t go pet her in case she was tired.

As it turns out, unicorns look a lot like ponies!

There was also sword fighting, minstrels, axe throwing (which I expected to be good at but wasn’t) and archery (which I was better at). And face-painting, which probably had the longest line of all.

Good job, town leaders! It was kinda hokey, but then again it was also kinda fun.

Another Wellington trip

Three of my first four weeks in the new job will include a trip to Wellington. This week I stayed in a brand new hotel, the Microtel by Wyndham. It was a tiny room, with only a skylight window. Weird.

Here’s a couple shots from the trip…

Labor omnia vincit. A bold thing to say in 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression. And now, with the Labour Party in total control of the government, there’s a special irony to this building being tenanted by the Wellington Rubber Stamp Co.

Yesterday’s spectacular sunrise…

Hello Dali

Today we saw the big Salvador Dali exhibit that’s playing at Spark Arena. It’s modeled on the Van Gogh exhibits that have been so successful.

The literal and figurative centerpiece of the show was a room with these giant screens showing animated and deconstructed images of the man and his work. Following the advice of a pétanque player we talked to at the luncheon, we headed straight for the big room and watched the whole 30-minute montage with its electronic chill soundtrack. Pretty neat. Then we worked our way back through to the beginning of the exhibit and read some of the explanatory notes. Our way was a way better approach!

I wasn’t a huge Dali fan before, and that hasn’t changed much. But I did come away with a much better appreciation for the breadth and intricacy of his work.

5 years

Today is Queen’s Birthday holiday. It has special significance to us because we arrived in NZ on Queen’s Birthday five years ago.

To celebrate, we had a drink at the very first restaurant we went to then, still jet-lagged and confused about how few things were open.

It’s been such a wonderful place to live out both the Trump era and the COVID-19 pandemic. We’ve learned to never say forever, but we can’t imagine the circumstances that would bring us back to the USA.

Silver boules

Yesterday was the 25th anniversary of the Northcote Pétanque Club. We had the usual monthly tournament (in the rain), followed by a nice lunch, presentation of awards, and reminiscences from some of the founding members.

PS — not sure if you’ll be able to read it but on the newsletter there’s an article about me making the citywide team that will challenge our Wellington rivals for possession of the Chanticleer Cup in a couple of months.

Back to Wellington

Here’s a few shots from my trip to Wellington last week for new job orientation… It was Wellington I first fell in love with in NZ. But I think it would feel claustrophobic after while and also cold and windy, so I’m glad we didn’t end up there. But it’s still a pretty town.

Part of the Parliamentary complex, and the Parliament front lawn that was recently occupied by protesters.

This building wrapped in construction safety netting made me think we don’t need Christo and Jeanne-Claude as much any more.

I liked this jaunty fellow.

Out of this world

We went to the planetarium the other night for a live programme about what we could expect to see in our skies over the next few weeks. The planetarium itself was pretty good, but the guy doing the narration was super boring and had this lulling quality in his voice. I was out cold in just a few minutes.

No, sweetie, there wasn’t a pillow fight

That’s the living room floor covered in feathers, and the proud hunter wondering why we don’t appreciate her gifts.

Surprisingly, Lee was able to shoo the bird outside and it eventually flew away. I guess all that dinosaur DNA makes them tougher than they look.

The best of rides, the worst of rides

That top picture is the trusty minivan parked in my reserved spot for the very last time.

Below is a 1959 Impala who pulled into a garage just ahead of me recently. It was beautiful, but as I watched it jounce over the speed bumps I had a chance to reflect on what I really value in a car. Like, sure, if I were made of money I would let my horizons widen out a bit. But having to limit myself to one? Boringly, the minivan wins every time.

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