Pam’s Lost Days: Part One

“I fucking hate it here. I hate everyone. I don’t want to talk to any of these people. Everyone is eating Fergburger and drinking some strangely-colored-concoction from McCafe or Starbucks and ice cream from Chocolates Patagonia and they are constantly shoving shit in their mouths and they are carrying shopping bags from expensive clothing stores and they’re fucking glued to their stupid smart phones and selfie-sticks and they are all so fucking self-involved and fake. I saw this fat little Asian boy waddle around with a two-liter bottle of coke. Like who the fuck gave that to him?

“I had one of those nights last night. I was just walking around sober, well I was kinda stoned, but I was sober and I just realized I need to leave this city. It’s so different to sit by the lake and watch everyone walk by at night. You realize everyone is trying desperately to get laid. The guys walk in groups of four with skinny jeans and collared shirts and man buns and undercuts and one of them wears a tie and sunglasses and they smell like an orgy of cologne. The girls are slathered in makeup and squeezed into tight dresses. They all look like fucking Barbie dolls and I don’t understand why a human would want to look like that. Everyone had a shower this morning and everyone is fucking smiling and laughing all the time.”

“Sean. What are you talking about?” she says.

“Fuck this place. I’m leaving as soon as my van gets fixed. And what are you doing?”

“I’m just hanging out.” She shrugs.

“You’re completely broke. You have no money and no job and only Adara is working and she has to pay for everything for all four of you. What are you going to do? Resort to prostitution?”

Sean. Stop. Don’t point your anger at me. I didn’t do anything to you. You need to let the anger go. Just close your eyes and just forget about it. Just accept everyone. Everyone doesn’t have to be like you.

“We like being here. We never went to university. Going out and drinking in a city like this, this is all new to us. I had a soy chai latte yesterday and I sat on the green and just looked around and the sun hit the clouds by the mountains and I just thought it’s so beautiful here. I like it here.

“I spent a lot of time in nature back home and I would just be with the mountains and the trees and fields and be there all the time and I would love the world and love everything and when you love nature you realize that people are the product of nature and then you learn to love all of them too. You need to find an element you connect with, mine is the sky.”

“OK, but what about reality? You spend so much money here and you aren’t making anything. You can’t keep this up and just rely on Adara providing for all three of you. That’s not fair. She is cleaning toilets and businesses and shops and driving everyone around and that’s not fair to her.

“Fuck, you’re so much younger than me. We are so different. We need different things.

“I’m so selfish. I always come to you with my asshole thoughts and my shitty moods and I bitch and complain and you always know exactly what to say to calm me down. I’m just frustrated with myself.”

She rests her head on my arm. And we stay silent for a few minutes.

“You can’t do this to me. I don’t feel good after talking to you. This doesn’t feel good. Maybe it’s time. Like we talked about last week.

“Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. We talk about it every week.”

“It is.”

“Ok, I’ll leave on Monday.”

I return to the city the next day to busk.

It’s Saturday after five and the best spot in town, by the wharf in front of Pog Mahones, is vacant. The outdoor tables by the pub and the café next door are all full. The Kiwi guitar player and singer who plays with a microphone and amp is laying in the grass with his purple-haired girlfriend. Maybe he played earlier or maybe he wants to play soon, but I’m taking the spot. Convoys of Korean and Chinese tourists in brand-new, brightly-colored walking shoes and rain jackets walk by armed to the teeth with cameras around their necks and in their hands.

I’m feeling alone and confused with my life. My twenty-eight-year-old travel mate, Pam, is overheating and she will only let me drive her around town so that means I will have to hitch-hike back to the Rafters Road campsite 30 kilometers out of town. And I was pretty nasty to Serena last night. I think we might actually part ways this time.

Great time to play music and sing for a bunch of strangers.

I start to play “Coming In From The Cold” and I’m thinking too much. About everything. I miss a chord change because it’s busy here and it’s Saturday night and people are drinking at the pub and the other busker who usually secures this spot is lying in the grass and he can hear me and I’m sure he is judging me. I’m tense. I power through it and I’m probably the only person who realized I missed a chord. I’m too self-aware. Playing and singing requires complete focus and detachment from the world. There is only the music.

The purple-haired girl walks by me and then circles back and says, “You sound great.”

I keep playing and playing. I get to “Waiting In Vain” and a well-off looking businessman in a collared shirt walks by like he had a few beers. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out a 20-dollar note and casually drops it in my case without making eye contact or breaking his stride.

I start to play “Jammin’” and a stag party group staggers up and they all start dancing. The rest walk away but one keeps dancing next to me and a child drops in a dollar and he says, “See! I’m helping.”

I finish the song and he gives me a five-dollar note and a fist bump and says, “Cheers man. You play that pretty well.”

I count 15 Asian tourists who take a picture or video without dropping.

After an hour or so, a couple from the pub walks up with a fiver and the woman says they really enjoyed listening to me and the man says, I like that you don’t use a mic and amp. None of that fancy shit.

A man walks by and throws a cigarette into my bag even though I don’t smoke.

The bagpipes guy shows up down the wharf and he’s so loud you can hear it from the other side of town. He drowns out my voice and my guitar and the balloon tying walks up to me with a brown club he just made and he says, that’s for you to take that guy, out and he does a bashing motion before he tucks it into a strap on my guitar bag.

Even if I play well and get a decent amount of coin and compliments and funny interactions, I usually finish a busking set feeling defeated. There’s always an excuse. Maybe my voice is feeling gravely and strained or my calluses break and I wince at the pressure from the steel strings grinding against the now delicate flesh of my fingers. Sometimes I can play for a half hour and be completely ignored. That’s just part of the game. But today I finish in a better mood than when I began and I decide I deserve a burrito from Caribe.

My mouth burns from the delicious blend of beans, rice, veggies, sauces and spices. I head to my van. Pam is parked down by the lake until I can get her fixed, and I exchange my guitar for my backpack. Now it’s 9:15 and I realize if I want to get a lift back to the campsite, I need to hurry the fuck up. It’s Saturday night and it will be dark by 10. Summer in the south.

I walk away from the center of Queenstown, where it is easier to get picked up. I stick out my thumb and wait. After ten minutes, Bruce picks me up.

He has a trim build with grey hair and a tidy moustache. I’d say he’s in his fifties. He has the cleanliness and attention to detail of an ANZAC veteran. He’s headed to Frankton, about six kilometers. That’ll do.

He says he lost his wife in Fiji three years ago and he just remarried last year and he is finally starting to find happiness in life again. I tell him my story including that I lived in Alice Springs for a year and he confirms my earlier suspicion and says he used to be in the New Zealand Air Force and they used to fly into Alice Springs before heading to Korea. As I get out of his sedan, he says, Let me give you my book. And I say, Oh, cool, let me give you this. I reach into my backpack in the same pouch with my weed, grinder, rolling papers and knife and I look inside and think this is a bad pocket to reach into in a stranger’s car but I give him one of my shitty business cards with http://www.storiesfromadrifter.com scribbled in sharpie.

I head to the end of the roundabout. I stick out my thumb and wait.

I take a look at the book Bruce gave me. It’s more like a pamphlet. It says, The Rescue and has a picture of a helicopter on the cover. I think it must be about his career in the Air Force but, no, it’s about how everyone sins and Jesus is like a rescue helicopter that saves you from burning in a lake of fire and brimstone for eternity. Accept him as your only God, or else. It’s terrifying.

Now it’s dark and I wait for fifteen minutes until a ute pulls over. We didn’t bother with exchanging names but he tells me he is an arborist.

“Yeah, mate, I cut trees,” he says.

I say, Ahh, perfect, maybe you can answer a question for me. There is a huge line of trees down the road with, “SAVE ME,” signs taped to them. It would be a real shame to cut those down. They really make the road.

He says, Yeah, there’s a power line over them and it would cost ten-thousand-dollars a year to maintain them and the property owner doesn’t want to pay it and neither does the council. I think they are getting saved though. And yeah, they do really make the road.

He’s only going to the Arrowtown turn off, about five kilometers more and I tell him I’m going to the campsite on Rafter’s Road and he says, Oh yeah, I heard there’s a 21st birthday out there tonight, you gonna get pissed?

I say, Nah, that’s where I live.

He says, Yeah, I was invited but I’m not gonna go. All those guys do heaps of drugs.

I wait at the Arrowtown turn off and try to catch a ride but after about 30 minutes it’s getting properly dark and cold and windy all I’m wearing is a T-shirt, trousers and ill-fitting, slip-on sandals and no one is stopping because it’s 10:30 on a Saturday night and I have long curly hair and a beard. I’m 17 kilometers away from home.

It’s too cold to just stand there, so I start to walk to keep warm and I try to stick my thumb when cars drive by but it’s a highway with hills and curves and no streetlights and it’s 11 on Saturday night if anyone see’s me, I will only be a strange flash in their headlights and they will think I’m a crazy person. Maybe I am.

I arrive at the second turn off to Arrowtown and there are two streetlights, the first on the road, and I sit under them and thumb for a ride now that I am partially illuminated. But there are no takers. I take another look at Bruce’s book:

Where will you NOT go because of sin?

“Surely you know that the wicked will NOT possess the Kingdom of God. Do not fool yourselves, people who are immoral or who worship idols or are adulterers or homosexual perverts or who steal or are greedy or are drunkards or who slander others or are thievesnone will possess God’s kingdom.’ 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Maybe you also get drunk sometimes. Do you?

Because God is so holy, just and righteous, He has to greatly punish those who disobey His Commands.

The Bible, for example, even tells us exactly how many liars will face this terrible punishment. Would you like to know what this punishment is, and who is to go there? We will have look.

What the fuck? This is weird, Bruce. I thought God was supposed to love everyone.

I have to keep walking because I’m getting cold standing here in my T-shirt. Up ahead I see cars switching back and forth down the hill from the Cardrona ranges. The junction is just ahead with two more streetlights. I sit there and wait for cars but no one stops and now it’s midnight on Saturday and I roll a joint because I don’t think I will be getting picked up tonight. I’m still 12 kilometers from home.

I walk down State Highway 6 into the darkness and the stars glow above me.

The Milky Way is a mirror image of the road and I am following the burning gas balls in a journey through space and time. The silhouettes of the hills make everything seem so simple. Just a black foreground and a clear sky full of present and past space gods to accompany the sliver of a moon. There’s Orion and the two pointers and the Southern Cross. I’m in the Southern Hemisphere. I’m far away from home. I’m alone with the night.

My frustration and anxiety of not getting picked up starts to fade away and I think this is actually quite pleasant.

I light the joint and no cars go while it burns.

I’m lost in thought and suddenly a space ship zooms past me with a burst of light and wind and sound and I stumble into the brambles.

My senses are supercharged and I realize that I have now entered survival mode and I have to walk 12 kilometers because now I smell like weed and it’s 12:30 on a Saturday night and no one is going to pick me up and what if a cop drives by and see’s me and then stops and smells me. No more thumbing.

The road dips into a valley and I walk down into a bubble. Cold air creeps up from my exposed feet up to my exposed arms and my face. I’m walking into a lake. I’m underwater and it’s chilly down here.

OK, Sean, survival mode. This is what you live for. This is exciting. Lets take inventory. I have one-liter of water, a bottle of wine, three bananas, four figs and a chunk of baguette. Plenty of water and food. I’m wearing a T-shirt, trousers and sandals. I’ll have to keep moving to maintain body heat and I wish I brought my running shoes or hiking boots and then I take off my sandals and walk on the smooth part of the road where the tire tracks wear down the rough asphalt and I realize that feet are the best shoes ever made because they are a product of millions of years of evolution.

Oh, look there’s a trail. The Queenstown Trail. Bruce told me he rode here on his bicycle today. I get off the road and disappear into the forest and foliage and trees surround me and the stars are out tonight. They pour over the tops of the black hills and I feel like I’m in a video game. This must be Fallout: New Vegas. The ground is dry and the plants are brown and prickly. All I’m missing is theme music.

Critters scatter into the trees as I make my way down the path. Rabbits, possums and hedgehogs. Hedgehogs are my favorite. They scramble around our tents at night and they wander around and they are spikey but so gentle and calm and they have the cutest little faces and when you get close they tuck their head in like a turtle.

Something growls at me from the woods and I’m scared for a second because it’s dark. Luckily, this is New Zealand. There is nothing dangerous here. This is not Australia.

The Queenstown trail starts to turn away from the road and I think I need to get back to the highway. But first I should pause to drink water and eat a banana because maybe my brain isn’t working properly and I’m just running on adrenalin and survival mode. And I have cottonmouth.

Once I’m back on the road I see that I have come face to face with the AJ Hackett Bungy Bridge. I have to cross this monstrosity and I don’t want to get caught on there with a car coming so I take off my sandals and run.

I walk by the sign that reads, “You are now entering Gibbston: Valley of the Vines.” I expect thematic music to greet me into the new realm. I’m back into the video game and my morale is high because this is fun and I never do a nature walk like this at night unless I put myself in an extreme situation. It is beautiful and I don’t feel cold at all. Now I’m on top of a plateau and it is flat and the stars are really out tonight.

This is a perfect night.

I hear party music ahead and the trees are illuminated on the right side of the road and I think it might be the 21st birthday party because I’m stoned and I forget that I still have miles to go and that’s on the wrong side of the road. I run down the smooth tire groove on the road and my feet feel like they are being used how nature intended them to be used and my legs are happy.

I get close to the music and two men are walking down the path toward the road. They are talking loudly and using a flashlight and if I keep walking will walk right into each other and this is a very strange coincidence on this highway at this hour 30 kilometers out of Queenstown.

I hang back for a few seconds and slow my pace and let them go in front of me. Their flashlight blinds them and they can’t see me. They turn it off once they are on the road and I soon I catch up with them.

“Hey guys,” I say from behind and try not to sound like a weirdo. Which I am.

“Hey!” one of them says with a slight slur. “Who is that?”

“I’m Random Guy walking down the road right now,” I say because that seems like a normal thing to do.

“Hey! Random Guy!”

I tell him I’ve been walking for about 15 kilometers so far. Since the first turn off to Arrowtown.

“Shit. You’ve done well, Random Guy.”

“I’m Timbo and this is Ant. And besides Random Guy, who are you?”

“I’m Sean,” I say.

“Well, this is strange to see on a New Zealand State Highway. What a great night, Random Guy. Look at these stars. Wow.”

Ant chimes in.

“Want me to tell you some stuff about the Southern Hemisphere?” he asks and I say of course.

He says the top star of Orion’s belt is called Puanga in Māori and it was a very important navigational star for the Polynesians who first sailed to New Zealand.

“Where are the two pointers?” asks Timbo. We look around at the perimeter of the sky because that’s where it is found early in the night. It’s somehow always the first constellation I see. Now they are directly above, at the apex. “There is it.”

The Southern Cross.

I tell them I’m used to seeing Orion the other side up. In the Southern Hemisphere you see more stars below the belt, like the Southern Cross, and in the Northern Hemisphere you get more of the top half of Orion and constellations like the Big Dipper.

They ask me what I’m doing here.

“I’m traveling. Busking for now,” I say.

“Oh, what do you play?” Timbo asks.

“I play guitar and sing,” I tell them. “Bob Marley and classic rock.”

“Oh yeah! We saw you today. The guy with the bagpipes was drowning you out,” Timbo says and I want to ask them what they thought about my playing but I don’t.

We are getting close to my campsite and we hear voices.

“No way are there more people on the road! This is a fucking New Zealand State Highway not a footpath!” Timbo says.

There is a group of six ahead. They look like the type of people who just went to a 21st birthday party.

Timbo greets them all.

“Did you guys come from Rafter’s Road?” I ask.

“Huh?” they reply in unison.

“The campsite?” I clarify.

“Yeah, Yeah, are you going to the party?” they ask us.

“No, I live there,” I say.

“Well, there’s a rave in your house, bro,” one of them says with an accent that is not kiwi but I can’t place it but I think it sounds European.

They all chime in at once and bitch and complain about how there are no drugs and they ask us if we have any drugs and they say drugs at least ten times all together. The arborist who picked me up was right.

Now there are nine people standing on the side of State Highway 6 at 2 am.

“Sweet, there’s our taxi!” one of the partygoers says.

“No…that’s a cop,” Timbo says exactly what I’m thinking.

He swings around and rolls down his window.

“Do you guys have a ride?” the police officer asks.

He must be a magical policeman because at that very moment the maxi cab pulls up and the party people say, Yeah, right there and the cop says, Ok, Have a good night. And then he drives off.

“Ok, Random Guy, let’s go,” says Timbo. “What a night! We got random guy, druggos, a cop, taxi and these stars.”

I pull out my bottle of wine and say it’s time for celebration. I pass it around a couple of times.

“Thanks,” says Timbo. “That’s very kind of you.”

I get to my turn off and we part ways.

I hear the music coming from the campsite and I’m so happy to be home I run down the gravel track.

The Irish girls are sitting in front of their tents and Aoife says, “Sean Dolan, where did you come from?”

I tell them about walking 17 kilometers and about hitch hiking and Timbo and Ant and everything.

Two guys sit down with us and it appears that they have been taking to the four girls all night because the drunk Canadian acts like I’m blowing up his spot.

“Look at all these long-hair cunts,” he says. “Fucking hippies.”

Then he pees right next to our tents, a very long drunken pee, and I say, “Hey man, that’s kind of rude to pee right there.”

And he says, “What are you gonna do, fuckin’ American.”

“I’m going to tell you that that’s rude to pee right next to our house,” I say and then he tells me to fuck off.

Serena and I don’t have a tent because we usually sleep in my van but she is taking a holiday so we just pull out our sleeping pads and bags into the middle of the campsite and fall asleep together. Sleeping under the stars is refreshing.

The sun comes up and we move to the other side of the tree to escape the early morning heat.

I tell her that the Canadian guy was a real dick last night and she says, He was just taking the piss and he’s really funny we were talking about Trailer Park Boys earlier. But she doesn’t understand. He was talking to four girls all night and then I show up at 2 am and sit next to Serena and I know what he was thinking.

We drift back to sleep and Tarik says, “Hippie.” I look behind me and he is crouching by his tent under the wire clothesline.

It is Sunday and we are sitting on our blankets making coffee and porridge and talking and laughing.

I show everyone the book Bruce gave me.

Tarik reads a page aloud in his German accent and asks me how to pronounce adulterers and, What does covet mean?

Ivan says, “Sofie, Corazon,” and Sofie replies, “Ivan, mi amor cerido.” And she’s wearing a black bikini top and denim shorts with her short blonde hair because it’s a beautiful sunny day and they are making bracelets and necklaces and earrings out of string and seashells and beads.

This campsite is so beautiful. All of us here together. This is a special moment.

We are sitting in the shade on the hot day and we all say we aren’t going to town today and Tarik holds up The Rescue and reads, “Remember and keep the Sabbath Day Holy.”

“HVD,” Serena says. “It’s an acronym. Translate it.”

“Oh shit, it’s Valentines Day! Do you want to walk to the river?” I ask, but I’m pretty sure she broke up with me the other night but we are travelers and everything is fluid and we are together right now and that’s all that matters.

We sit on our favorite rock cliff overlooking the intensity of the crisp, clean and green Kawarau River. We drink her water untreated and swim and bathe in her glory.

IMG_1814
The Mighty Kawarau.

“It’s so true what you said about finding happiness in nature. When I was walking last night and being in nature and staying at the campsite today an just hanging out with friends and making food and sitting outside. I am so happy. Everything is perfect right now. It’s impossible not be happy out here. When I’m in the city it’s always costing money and everything is confusing.

“I’m sorry about what I said the other night. I was stuck in Queenstown for three days and I was going fucking crazy and I missed the freedom of driving Pam wherever I want.”

“Do ya know, like, that’s what’s wrong with cities,” she says. “Not enough nature. Nature is so important. It reminds us of life and our meaning.”

She is five years younger than me but she is wise and compassionate and grounded and beautiful. She cares about everyone and she talks to everyone and listens to everyone’s’ problems and is full of love.

We hug and sit there embracing each other even though I think we sort of broke up and we might not be together after this.

I need some time alone with Pam and she needs time alone with her friends. Just some time alone. To think and digest life.

“It’s like you said,” she tells me. “It’s not sad. It’s happy because it’s a new beginning.”

I remember those feelings.

You get in the car and everything is packed and organized and charged and clean and you can’t wait for that moment when you say your last goodbye and give your final hug because all you can think about is the new adventure waiting for you. It’s sad, but you will make new memories and meet new people and see new places. I don’t want to leave my friends. But I need to be alone.

Advertisements

Prohibited

Queenstown Lakes District Council

Private Bag 50072, Queenstown 9348

 

To Whom It May Concern:

 

I was born on January 22, 1991. It snowed that day in Albany, New York.

Twenty-five years later – against all odds and expectations – I find myself traveling around New Zealand. On this day I am in the quaint tourist village called Queenstown. I woke up in my van the following morning to find a $200 ticket for prohibited freedom camping.

The day started in Wanaka. It is peaceful and easy to live there, with a low–cost DOC campsite alongside a magical river where we can swim and be refreshed. I could not stay there, however. It was my birthday and I am required by the Gods – old and new – to celebrate this ancient tradition on the anniversary of my exiting my mother’s womb.

In the early afternoon, I drove from Wanaka to Queenstown to meet up with some friends.

IMG_1582
On top of the Crown Range overlooking Queenstown.

Queenstown is beautiful, but in that beauty is chaos. Tourists and buses crowd the city and money is sought at every venue, bar and retail outlet.

Money rules here. Money is king.

Tourism is New Zealand’s top export. People come here from all over the world to experience the robust natural landscapes and easy-going human residents. Judging from the countless adventure tourism options in this area, I’m sure Queenstown collects its fair share of that revenue.

I too have paid my fair share to this industry. Before I arrived in New Zealand last June, I lived and worked in Australia for a year, mostly in the remote outback town of Alice Springs. I arrived in Australia with no money. I worked long hours in the hospitality industry. I saved money knowing that I would be venturing to New Zealand, where the pay is much lower and the natural beauty much greater. There I would travel more and work less. There I would spend most of the money I made in Australia.

On my birthday I was anxious. I was frustrated at the lack of camping options and the expensive prices and limited availability of accommodation. I made the bold decision to park my van in the Queenstown Gardens knowing that I would return there to sleep in the early morning. It was my birthday and I wanted to have fun and I didn’t know what else to do. I took a risk and for that I am sorry. I did not dump any waste – human or otherwise – and I did not cause a menace. I simply slept in my van with my female companion instead of driving drunk to the DOC campsite 12 kilometers away.

IMG_1206.JPG
Pam in action.

I woke in the morning to find the ticket on my windscreen. My first reaction was to simply ignore the fine and join the approximately 900 tourists who chose the no-payment option in 2014, according to the NZ Herald article titled, “Hundreds of tourists dodging $200 freedom camping fines.”

I only received one Birthday present this year. I complimented the duo playing guitar and singing pop songs at World Bar and told the beautiful singer that it was my birthday. She asked my name and then dedicated the next song to me.

It was “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift. I nearly cried. Maybe because I was drunk. I then rejoined my friends and danced the night away.

Now, I implore you, human who is reading this letter at the Queenstown Lakes District Council, I beg thee from the very depths of my soul and I promise I will never again sleep in my van in a prohibited zone:

Would you find room in your heart to forgive this ticket and follow T. Swift’s motto and shake it off?

Thank you for your time.

 

Sincerely,

Sean F. Dolan

Big

I was wearing a white collared shirt and a blue tie.

I find myself sitting in an auditorium at an awards ceremony for creative academics. All of the smart people in the crowd want to do big things in this world. They play a video of a hovering metal drone with eight compartments that releases blue balloons into the air that are filled with an element that reverses climate change in places like India and China that are full of smog and smoke and pollution.

I left the auditorium and I wandered around the city feeling depressed.

I walk down the street and stop at an Asian stir fry takeaway shop with a keno style video lottery screen and something compels me to put down some numbers.

1, 3, 6, 9, 46.

The screen keeps flashing 1, 3, 6, 9 and I knew I won big.

The payout was up to $1,000 then it kept going to $10,000 then to $100,000 then it stopped at $76 zillion.

I left.

I wandered around the dark city at night. I looked around and everywhere I looked were skyscrapers. The air is thick. Dark and ashy. Smoke and pollution from the underground vents blackened the already dank buildings. The streets are empty. I sit there looking all around me, knowing I just won an incredible amount of money and all of the sudden a behemoth of a construction vehicle drives between the two buildings before me.

The ground shakes.

It is like a big tractor trailer but way too big. It fades from my view and then another drives by, even bigger. More massive and the ground shakes again. The Earth trembles. It is not natural. Another truck. This was the biggest I have ever seen and it is hauling a truck that appears to be the same size as the first truck. It must be seven stories tall. There are big rubber tires and then there are little wheels coming down on stilts for extra support. It is like The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seus. It is going slow and it is as big as the entire road and I don’t know how it can make turns.

Then there are different kinds of machines that don’t have wheels, they walk like lizards.

Mechanical lizards with armored feet.

They can climb up the sides of buildings. I follow them to the construction yard. I float around on a grappling hook and no one can see me. And I observe everything. Workers. They look different, detached from me. Different from me. Sad. I float up past the scaffolding on my grappling hook going up and looking down at the construction and I can hear them. I hear pieces of conversations and they are all the same. They are talking about what they want to do with their lives if they weren’t in construction.

“After this job I’m going to…”

They talk like they have dreams. They talk like they are stuck here. In this life. They talk like they have no control.

I find myself back at the Asian stir fry takeaway shop where I won the keno outside on the street. I stand in line and order the tofu or the miso soup. She takes out a bag and it says it is tofu but it is filled with prawns and insects and maggots. She says the miso soup has meat in it. She says all of the food has animals in it.

I walk along the street after seeing this pollution and broken dreams and all of the food is animals and I won all this money and I’m walking along with my shirt and tie after going to the award ceremony with all the smart people with big plans and here I am with 76 zillion dollars and I can do anything and help anyone and while I’m thinking this I’m walking and I start to float up into the air while the city sits in darkness as a slight gradient of sunrise starts to shine above the skyscrapers and I just float up in the air and my blue tie is flowing in the wind and I just float up with my eyes closed and that’s how it ends.

Then I wake up and look through the window of my van to see the sun rising over the Southern Alps of New Zealand.

IMG_1204.JPG

 

My People

 

I have been struggling to somehow put my writing into blog posts. One morning I woke up with these words in my head. I wrote them down and then played the first two chords that came to me.

Over the past few months, I have been deeply inspired by the soulful music, revolutionary ideas and Rastafari beliefs of Bob Marley. He is not a superficial man. He is not just the face of stoners. His music speaks to me in a way that no other artist ever has.

This is the first song I have written. No, I didn’t write it. I and I wrote it. It just flows and it’s not just me. Jah is within all people. I do not consider myself religious but Rastafari is changing how I think. Being vegan is changing how I think. Rastas are vegans or vegetarians. Love everything and everyone and every animal.

In a 1979 interview in New Zealand Bob Marley says, “I see myself as a revolutionary.”

“Rasta is the future.”

Not On My Street, Mate

I’m on duty from 8:30 pm to 7:30 am on Saturday night, but I was talking to the cops till nine.

Friday is the warm up and Saturday is the real deal. You never know what to expect as night porter at a “party” hostel. Make your rounds, watch the cameras, keep your ears open. Be ready.

This is my home and these people are my family. I love it and I love them. Don’t fuck with us.

At 11:15, I received a call from the manager, who lives next door, telling me she saw a group of five drunken idiots vandalizing a tour bus parked on the road.

We checked the camera footage from the street and saw a raggedy group of hooligans strolling down the street with swag and beers in hand. Young Kiwis with an appetite for destruction. The camera was behind them so we didn’t see their faces, but there was one dead giveaway. The back of one of their shirts read, “yess” or “less” or “guess.” They think no one is watching them, but we know everything.

The drunkest of our “dirty old man” crew — every hostel has one — wanted to chase them down and deal out some vigilante justice, but Carl, with an age advantage, knew the best course of action is to make a police report for insurance purposes. It is his work vehicle. We just need a record.

The night goes on and I think nothing of it. The drunk get drunker. The Argentinians are still cooking dinner till midnight and Ivan brings out a bottle of Jaeger. We are going to drink this, and then go into town, he says. OK, just don’t be too loud, I tell them.

The Germans are drinking in the broken-down bus converted in a chilled-out, good-vibes TV lounge. They are smoking cigarettes. Guys, guys, guys, what the fuck are you doing. No cigarettes, just joints in here. C’mon. Have some respect. The people who pass through for a few days don’t respect this hostel like I do. And many of the long-termers think they are above the rules. I walk by again and the girl by the window says, put the cigarette out he’s coming. Do they think I can’t hear them? Do they think I can’t see them?

At last they go to the pubs or they go to sleep and the tranquility of the darkness settles in.

I want this peace to last forever, but I know soon the light will begin to creep over the mountains. A blue-to-white gradient will infect the cloudless sky. The birds will begin their chirp chirp chirp. The fish factory workers and the early morning tour-bus-takers will stumble into the kitchen looking for free breakfast.

I sit in the office, reading news articles about ISIS, Republicans and Bernie Sanders. There is so much hate, ignorance and fear in the world but I still have faith in my hero. From time to time, I walk around or glance at the cameras. Keeping my family safe and making sure no one is being a fuckwit.

And I’m writing in my journal:

Melissa walked by earlier while I was pushing in chairs by the pool. “Smile, John,” she says because none of the Argentinians can pronounce my name. It’s Sean, not John. And juice sounds like shoes. Change your face, cambiar tu cara, she tells me on a daily basis. How about you mind your own fucking business? Maybe my face isn’t an accurate representation, but I was actually in a perfectly good mood before you came along and spoiled it. Now I am self-conscious and you just walk by with hubris like you are the almighty purveyor of true happiness. You don’t know me. Puta madre.

Later, Naji from France sidles up to the “dirty old man” crew — if you can’t think of a good comeback to their constant banter, jokes and criticisms, then this group is not for you — he is there for a few seconds before arrogantly proclaiming, Sean you are always quiet. Always observing.

I tell him I was talking just before you came and I’m thinking, what is wrong with people? What gives you the right to make such a statement about another person?

My mood immediately plummets after his comment and now I have to retreat to the office and write these thoughts and calm down before I can rejoin society.

Suddenly the time is 5:30. Dawn has broken and with the morning light I can feel my power fade. It is time for me to put out the communal breakfast of muesli, corn flakes, rice puffs, weetbix, bread, jam and milk. I share a few words with the Japanese guy sitting in the kitchen. He is taking a bus to the Nelson Lakes for a day of tramping. Nice, have an excellent day.

The light is here and I think it is safe to sleep until my shift ends at 7:30. Surely no one would be so bold to be drunken assholes at this hour.

I hear voices. I know this hostel and I know who is staying here. These are stranger voices. I try to drift to sleep but the voices don’t stop. I hear them walking out of the front door, directly below my open window. They are laughing and they sound dangerous. I have to get up and investigate.

I walk down to the office and playback the front door camera. I see a familiar shirt. “Yess” or “less” or “guess.” He is carrying a box of beer. I shut the door, slip off my sandals and run.

I run to the end of the driveway. A tall man is looking around.

“Where did they go?” I ask.

That way.

“I’m calling the police,” I say.

Good.

I follow them and dial 111. The tall man and I are both barefoot, the Kiwi way, and he is carrying a smashed milk jug that I put out only ten minutes ago. I tell dispatch I need police and I explain who I am and that I am following a group of kids that we suspect vandalized a van earlier and they probably just committed other crimes at the hostel.

They are ignorant, proud of their destruction. They are blind but the tall man and I are awake.

They turn around and see me with a phone to my ear as they approach a quiet intersection in this normally quiet neighborhood. They bolt and we pursue. I follow them down a cul-de-sac and I hear rustling in the bushes. A skinny punk with a black t-shirt and a hearing aid walks out as if he lives there.

“Fuck you, man,” I yell at him.

I forget the police are in my ear and she tells me not to talk to him. He doesn’t try to run. He has given up. He is not blind, but he is half-deaf and it’s impossible to understand him after a night of drinking, vandalism and probably drugs. Meth is way too common in New Zealand. This country may look green, clean and beautiful, but there are very serious problems with crime, drugs and domestic violence.Young people are uneducated and have no motivation. Tourists don’t see it though.

The tall man is Nick, our neighbor. He is thin but strong with a clean look about him and slicked back curly brown hair. He speaks with the classic powerful, deep Kiwi voice. He says he saw the group when they walked by just after 11. They “biffed” a beer bottle down the road while he was just getting home and locking his gates.

“Oi, don’t be throwing beer bottles,” he called out to them. “Not on my street, mate.”

I’m glad we share the same passion for protecting our homes.

A police officer arrives in about ten minutes of waiting and then another joins. They look tired.

“It was like the full-moon was out last night,” he says.

I wouldn’t be surprised if these kids, who I later found out are in their early 20s, we’re involved in a litany of other crimes throughout the night. We give brief statements and they take a beer bottle littered on the ground for fingerprints and they arrest the deaf punk who couldn’t run fast enough.

I return to the hostel to check the cameras to try to get the full story. And what a story it is.

A group of six walked into the hostel four minutes after I retired to my bedroom. Great timing. They made themselves at home. They headed straight for the pool and relaxed into the hammocks, played table tennis and dipped their toes in the pool. They must have been tuckered out after a long night of fucking with innocent people.

Then, one-by-one, they all walked directly toward the camera by the spa. I finally read the rest of the shirt. “Rekless.” Yes, you are. And now we have all of your faces in stunning HD color video.

I recognized one of them. Naji. Except for your earlier comment, I always liked you, man. You stayed here for about a month and you worked here, cleaning rooms. We practiced the slack line together a few weeks ago and you picked it up almost instantly. You gave me advice: “There is only the line.” Everyone around here has a limited wardrobe, but you wear the same exact clothes everyday, a neon wind breaker jacket and black track pants, a black hat with a skull and cross bones and you carry around a small man bag. The girl from Carlisle, in the North of England, with caked on makeup, nice tits and an annoying “Geordie Shore” accent asked you what you keep in the bag on the first night she met you. (No one else has ever dared asking such a personal question.) You said, “This bag is my life.” We still don’t know what you carry around in there. And now you betrayed me. You let these savages into our home.

Then someone kicked the meter tall stone statue into the pool. We only caught you on the edge of the camera. All we can see is a black shoe with a white stripe on the bottom. Two of you are wearing shoes that match the description so that will be easy to narrow down once the cops find the rest of you.

At that point Naji waved good-bye and went to his bed. He realized these are bad guys and he didn’t want any part of it. But he left them to their own devices.

Then the punks walked into the kitchen, but first the “Rekless” guy grabs darts off the dartboard and throws them in the pool. No respect. It appears they have the thirst so they open up a jug of milk and two of them take a nice big swig. The blonde idiot looks straight into the camera and laughs. What the fuck are you thinking? Then they grab a box of beer from the fridge, which belongs to a German girl, and walk out the front door.

That’s when I heard them and got out of bed.

An hour later the cops rock up to the hostel and I show them the footage. The morning receptionist is hung over and he strolls in with bloodshot eyes to an office with two police officers.

It’s funny how cops are so reliant on their iPhones. Earlier on the street, he used his iPhone to take pictures of the beer bottle and the deaf guy. Now this cop uses his iPhone to snap screenshots of each of the assholes who invaded my hostel. Later we would send them the full tapes and stills.

The cop’s name is Johnny and he is just a regular guy. He says if he answered his phone earlier in the morning he would be in a helicopter over the beautiful, pristine Fox Glacier right now helping with the search and rescue of a helicopter tourism crash that left seven dead. One of his mates on the force sent him a picture of the view. “Bastard,” he says.

He tells us it’s a pretty interesting job and he gets to see a lot. I’ve never spoken with a cop with his guard down like this. He looks into the kitchen and see’s the collection of happy young travelers gathered around the communal dining table with the pool in the background. He says he’d like to come back here sometime. The receptionist says, yeah, come back on a Saturday night without your uniform.

I wake up Naji from his sleep and the cops talk to him. It appears the hooligans took advantage of him. He met them on the street on his way back from the pub. Naji says he is going back to the hostel and the group of cunts say, Oh yeah, that’s where we stay. I guess he was too drunk to realize that they were lying. I don’t forgive you.

Backpackers walk by the office and see me talking to cops and they all look curious and that’s fine.

Now it’s 9 am and I can finally go to sleep but I have work at the Fish and Chip shop down the road at 12. It is a restless sleep with all of the excitement and ideas floating in my head but I can’t write. Now I need sleep.

Libby says I look tired. I tell her the story during the quiet lunch shift. She tells me if they are minors they will just get a fine and maybe community service.

“Teenagers get away with everything,” she says.

I feel tired but I can still smile at customers because that’s the job and I like it because I’m in New Zealand.

All of the sudden lunch is over and I can go home and make my own lunch. Asian stir fry broccoli with cous cous and a side of baked asparagus because I do what I want. And then I immediately feast on a breakfast of muesli with dried fruit, banana, linseed, chia seed, psyllium husks and soy milk because I do what I want.

I sit with the Argentinians and tell them the story. Camila has to translate some parts for Mica. She gave up on our English lessons a few weeks ago because she is always around her own people. She speaks to me way too fast in Castellano, not the Spanish I learned in school, and she uses slang words I have never heard before but she still says I always understand her.

Then I try to sleep for an hour until I have to return to the Fish and Chip shop for dinner service. It’s Drew and Shell. Shell is a 30-something Fillipino, she likes anime and is looking forward to playing Fallout 4 on her day off tomorrow. Drew is a lanky 17-year-old with short blonde hair and a grimy rat-tail. He is usually still wearing his school uniform pants and black shoes with white socks. He constantly abuses me and takes the piss because I’m American and that’s what any respectable Kiwi would do. I love it. We’re listening to American Pie by Don McLean and I ask him if he knows who sings this and he says, No, it’s just some American bullshit. It’s a constant conversation in the kitchen and we are always saying what we are doing. Pizzas are in. Burger is flipped. Chips are on top of the oven. Pizza is on the rocks. Can you take that order? I love it.

One day I was talking about how difficult it is to understand Kiwis and then an hour later he starts talking to me and gesturing and it takes me a good twenty seconds of asking “what?” “huh?” before realizing he is actually speaking gibberish.

I try to fight back, but I’m not as practiced as this guy who is seven years younger than me. He comes in one day and I ask how he is going. Great, I just had my first swim of the year in the river. It was kinda scummy, though. Oh, just like you, I say.

Shell squirts tomato sauce into a ramekin and it sounds like a ripe fart and I say, Eww, Shel, C’mon not in front of the customers. And she says, I thought Americans we’re soft.

They always like when I have a good hostel story for them. Like when I walked in on an attempted threesome between a short Mexican guy, a French man and a French girl. The Mexican walks out of his room wearing only a towel and he yells, “Get the fuck out of here, I’m trying to have a threesome.” I love hostels.

Now it’s 1 am and I really need to get some sleep and I realize it was probably for the best that I was in my bed when the drunken vandals walked in to the hostel. If I was still in the office, I would have immediately heard them and told them to fuck off and they wouldn’t have committed any crimes and we would have no evidence and that’s boring. Or I would have confronted them and they would have smashed me and done whatever they can to escape. Maybe they had knives. It was more fun to let them fuck shit up and let the cameras see what kind of people they are. Let them leave the property with stolen beer and milk and then chase the fuckers. Yeah, that was fun.