They said you were bright / had stars in your eyes

I’ll have a Soy Chai, please”

Hear­ing that I knew I was back in Auck­land. The joys of Pon­son­by Road are some­times every bit as insub­stan­tial as Welling­to­ni­ans love to sug­gest they might be, espe­cial­ly when sit­ting in Bam­bi­na, café de-choice of swathes of young (ish) wan­na be design­er types who have their design­er shades firm­ly on their fore­heads despite the fact that it’s grey and piss­ing down out­side.

It’s easy to be smarmy and con­de­scend­ing about Auck­land. There are the over­dressed bright (and as I said above, often no longer, like myself) young things who wear over­priced clothes they can’t afford (unlike me, I wear live in jeans and some old t-shirt most of the time), live in hous­es they can’t pos­si­bly afford (but the bank is hap­py to lend them mon­ey to buy…been there, and per­haps will be again), and dri­ve cars that not only can’t they afford, have no prac­ti­cal day to day use beyond impress­ing the oth­er clien­tele at Prego or Blake (dit­to). Then there is Metro. I asked myself a week or two back if Metro had improved. Ah, no it hasn’t sad­ly. If any­thing it’s worse, much worse, if that’s pos­si­ble.

For­tu­nate­ly, Auck­land real­ly is not the vapid, grasp­ing, over­ly pre­ten­tious swamp that you would think it is if that was your only stick to judge the city by. The odd wor­thy arts and music review aside (and yes Auck­land has some of all of that – just remem­ber when Kane Massey’s Deep­Grooves was invent­ing the NZ down­beat that Wellie boasts about, most of the rest of NZ, the cap­i­tal includ­ed, was still pro­duc­ing post-Seat­tle cock rock), there is rarely any­thing between it’s cov­er that relates to Auck­land in any fath­omable way.

This peri­od, nine months, is the longest I’ve spent away from the city of my birth since, I guess, 1985 when I returned after 2 ½ years in Lon­don. I didn’t quite know what to expect, it’s a fun­ny lit­tle town but I love big slabs of it a lot. I so love its soul and the spir­it and humour that I can find nowhere else in NZ. It’s the only town which doesn’t feel either dour and self-impor­tant, with no good rea­son, or like some red­neck hick town. It has ele­ments of both of that still and it is far too self-impor­tant (Fash­ion Week any­one?), but noth­ing on this plan­et feels as good as sit­ting with a bunch peo­ple I’ve known for twen­ty or thir­ty years, over cof­fee or wine at some hole in the wall café on Pons, or in a pent­house over­look­ing the urban inner west; or talk­ing shit about obscure Ger­man tech­no, and rem­i­nisc­ing with Nick D until 5am. I did all that and could do it for­ev­er. There are lots of peo­ple I love in Auck­land town.

So Ak07, some thoughts, from an Asian vis­i­tor:

· Damn, it’s expen­sive.

· There is no traf­fic, get over it. The roads, by any rea­son­able inter­na­tion­al stan­dards (and I include the motor­ways at rush hour) are desert­ed. Auckland’s traf­fic prob­lem is the same one that afflicts the nation as a whole – anger. Con­tact ball sports are my the­o­ry…

· Talk­ing of which: mov­ing the school terms for the rug­by… that’s tru­ly fucked up….

· I love the infra­struc­ture – unlike much of the rest of the world, every­thing works. The roads, the taps, the pow­er. I guess you pay for it with stu­pid sized prop­er­ty tax­es and reg­u­la­tions, which brings me to…

· The rules, the reg­u­la­tions, the rules and more rules…there are so many. Every­thing is reg­u­lat­ed and half the pop­u­la­tion, when they are not dis­cussing a con­tact ball sport which encour­ages young men to do GBH to each oth­er, are, face to face, on the air­waves, and in forums, dis­cussing ways to increase the reg­u­la­tions. I hate the phrase nan­ny state, but dri­ving along the water­front see­ing signs and light­ings for over a kilo­me­tre warn­ing me about a loom­ing closed shoul­der (which I didn’t notice when I got there) makes me won­der how much all this bull­shit costs. There are so many fuck­ing rules. Now, I under­stand, you need a seat­belt for your dog, oth­er­wise your insur­ance is void. You could not make this stuff up – the num­ber eight wire is now only sold in metre lengths with a per­mit.

· Auck­land Air­port: when you crit­i­cise the unfriend­ly, over (yes) reg­u­lat­ed quag­mire that is Auck­land Air­port peo­ple defen­sive­ly com­pare it to LAX. When that’s the stan­dard you com­pare your­self to, you are seri­ous­ly in trou­ble. From the smar­tarse Immi­gra­tion guy mak­ing deri­sive com­ments about Bali, to the – only in NZ – women who harass you about cab­in bag weight on the way out (in my expe­ri­ence, nowhere else in the world) you feel like you are leav­ing Wan­ganui Inter­na­tion­al. Sell it to the Arabs, they could not, and won’t, do a worse job.

· Where in gods name is the wi-fi. Y’know the sort of thing that any café, air­port, food-hall, or mall in Asia offers as a free, or ludi­crous­ly cheap, ser­vice. Not in Auck­land though. There is a clear and grow­ing tech­nol­o­gy gap. Where are the IT stores and malls? And don’t tell me it’s pop­u­la­tion…

· Conch Records may well be the best record shop in the world.

· Ahh, the food. The good stuff is fan­tas­tic, and the good stuff is almost always at the bot­tom end of the scale price wise. Lit­tle KK in Green­lane offers the best Malaysian out­side Malaysia, and indeed is very much bet­ter than much of the stuff you find there. And won­der­ful Indi­an, Dim Sim (we meet Chi­nese gourmets in Asia that rave about Grand Har­bour), and all sorts of oth­er things found in cheap and cheer­fuls across the isth­mus. It has to be the ingredients…despite moan­ing, the nation is so very clean and green, and its impos­si­ble not to taste that. New Zealand, how­ev­er, does do high-end din­ing very, very bad­ly. Let’s leave that to Metro.

· The Steak and Cheese Pies; the mus­sels and the scal­lops – and the choco­late and the ice cream…

· “Have you seen Sylvia Park??”..uh yes, and why would you both­er. Bit sad innit. KL also has a cin­e­ma that claims the biggest screen in the (non-IMAX) world – some­body is not telling the truth.

· George and 95bFm are the best radio you’ll find any­where.

· Damn, its expen­sive.

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