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.

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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.

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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.

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