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October 18th, 2010


07:54 pm - Lake O'Hara Summary
So, this is probably long overdue, but I am going to sit down and do a brief recap of my four summer months spent at Lake O'Hara. I will do my best to bust it down into a few brief sections (Work, People, Place) and not bog you down with too many details. So, without further ado:

THE WORK AT LAKE O'HARA


The first thing you've gotta know is that life at `The Lodge` (as we staff affectionately refer to it as) follows a relatively strict routine. Especially for those of us who worked in the kitchen, our schedules and tasks repeated themselves on a weekly basis. For my morning shifts, I woke up (without fail) at 6 A.M. and proceeded to send out 50-odd plates of eggs, wash dishes, bake muffins, serve lunch to whichever crazy people decided that it would be better to eat in the lodge then go out hiking(HI MOM AND DAD!), and wipe stuff. About once a week we would have some sort of `theme day`. Possible themes included: Sexy, Gangster Rap and Soul Saturdays, GET THE HELL OUT EARLY AND GO HIKING day, deal with everyone`s hangovers day, etc.



From left to right: Nate, Kezia, Jon, Fran, PINK JUSTICE. We were all a very serious bunch.


Dinners consisted mostly of an enormous amount of prep work, about 90 minutes of actual service, drinking of `coffee`(My favorite variety was a coffee brewed of malted grains and hops) and more dishes/wiping. Dinners rotated on a two week basis so that Mondays inevitable brought around fuckin` Salad Rolls and Sunburst Salad on opposing weeks.


More seriousness in the Kitchen


THE PEOPLE AT LAKE O'HARA


There is so much to be said that I almost won`t bother to say anything. Pictures will tell the story better anyhow. There are just three points I wish to touch upon.
The jams/The Saturday Night Shows:
I believe that my favorite moments of the entire summer, including all the mountains I surmounted, were the moments of music. Whether it be impromptu jams in one of our communal lounges, the almost obligatory jams after every Saturday Night Show, or the shows themselves, I was treated to an enormous array of every type of music imaginable.
From the simplest

to the most profound

souls were bared, voices resounded, guitar strings broke, fingers bled, drums pulsed, people danced.

Every feeling from the biggest and most soaring triumph

to life-altering heartbreak

through sheer rebellious spirit was represented.

Pieces that had been sweated over and assembled over years to songs barely twenty minutes young to improvised tunes that were never even properly born, I got to see music in all its myriad beauteous forms and I LOVED IT!

The Comedy
There are some funny, funny people that worked at The Lodge this summer. However, much like Eddie Murphy said in Delirious, anyone who tries to recapture the spirit of spontaneous and momentary humour is bound to fail, and in the process bore and disappoint his audience. Instead of boring and dissapointing you, I only need to share with you some of these photos, which I hope will offer a charmingly nonsensical look into some of the THOUSANDS of hilarious moments (some on stage, many on the deck or on hikes or in the kitchen etc) that took place over the summer.








The Love and Pantslessness
This one speaks for itself.








There are a million other things I could talk about. The climbing, the parties, the shotgunning, the meetings, the sauna talks, hockey, Frolf, slack lining and so forth, but I feel like I`ve already gone over the top with this section as it is.

LAKE O'HARA AS A PLACE


Oh man, this is the hard one. I have very little to write regarding this. The lake is beautiful. The mountains are challenging and imposing, but by their very presence are also calling out to be conquered. The flora and fauna are hardy, gorgeous, diverse.

By living in a place like O`Hara, it is difficult to entertain yourself any other way than by going out and hiking. In the process, you refine yourself as a person. There are no railings, few warning signs, plenty of places where you have to find your own way. The world has little tolerance for your ego or your arrogance. You must abide by nature's laws (Gravity being a very good example), and messing with those laws is a foolish risk. Failure is met with varying levels of intolerance, and the motivation to learn is provided by that intolerance. I like the hard edge of living like that, as opposed to the soft, matronly society that we've created for ourselves. Not to say that I abhor comfort and security, but just that, when I have the energy and motivation for it, I get results in a pitiless environment that I could never hope for otherwise. Combine that with the pride of knowing that I can survive in such adversarial conditions, and you`ve got yourself a good old-fashioned outdoors addict.

Now: Pictures. Not too many. Just enough to give you an idea of the place!







FINAL WORDS


So, that`s it. That`s my summer. Much was left out, and I feel like I might have made some grevious omissions, but I can`t possibly fit everything that needs to be said into one post. One thing that, even if I have no room for it, needs to be said is what an incredible job the management team did at O`Hara. Henry and Kerry, Bruce and Alison, without your tireless efforts and (mostly) unassailable good cheer, the summer wouldn`t have been half of what it was. This space is not sufficient to address the hard work and efforts they all contributed to develop me and my associate employee contemporaries both as memebers of staff, but also as people. A short sentence like Thank you can contain more appreciation than its length communicates, which exactly describes how I will end this.

To Bruce, Alison, Henry and Kerry: Thank you.

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June 3rd, 2010


01:52 pm
There is a write up on The Mountain Goats show coming, I swear. For now, the vitals.

I will be away at Lake O'Hara from now until 3 October. If you miss me, feel free to contact me using either Snail Mail, E-Mail, or Phone.

Snail mail, while slowest, will be the most reliable. The address is:
Mr. Corbin James Manson
c/o Lake O'Hara Lodge
Box 55
Lake Louise, AB
Canada
T0L 1E0

If you write me a letter, odds are you'll get one back. Even if I hate you. I'll just send you some hate mail or something.

E-mail is corbinmanson@gmail.com. Please do not sign me up for mailing lists, spam, enlarge your penis programs or other such nonsense. My penis is fine, thank you.

You can call me at 1 (250) 343 9417. At this point, I have no idea when I'll be available/near the phone, so if you want to talk to me, (e-)mail me when you wanna talk and I'll call you or you can call me.

I'LL MISS EVERYONE WHILE I'M AWAY MAKING TONS OF MONEY AND HIKING IN THE ROCKIES!

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May 26th, 2010


08:23 pm - THE END, MY FRIEND
This is it. The trip has ended. Six months away from home, inventing a new name for myself. With a strong eye for the past and a keen intuition for the future, I plunge onwards. But I owe you, dear reader, an update. The last time you heard from me, I had been celebrating life and saving the world one sewage system at a time with Ray and Diwen in the hills around Eastbourne. Here is all that has happened since then!

A HIKE ON MY OWN


Living in Brooklyn means living in the constant shadow of Wellington's great windmill. Wellington, of course, is a prime candidate for wind power. In addition to the obvious boon of the city being TOTALLY FUCKING WINDY, wind power is renewable, meaning that it would fit very closely with New Zealand's policy of sustainability.



The windmill resplendent!


Of course, this is all just background. What matters here is the shadow. I saw it every day, and it tempted me much in the way a big fat Cuban Churchill might tempt a white-bearded man in a suit and a monocle, sitting in a wood panelled room full of leather-bound books of history and the 'natural sciences'. On one wall, a stone hearth, which is the glorious amphitheatre for the roaring of a great fire. Beneath the Italian-black-leather-shod feet of this man lies a large, calm hunting dog, content with the presence of his master. Hung above the fire, quietly accusing any entrants with its dead-eyed stare, is the head of a fierce eleven-point buck, cut down in the prime of its life by the very man now lusting after said cigar.

What was I talking about?

Anyhow, on what turned out to be my last full day off in Welly, I set out from my drafty flat in order to explore this mysterious shadow. I had learned, from a hike that I referred to as 'The Picture That Almost Killed Me', that the beginnings of the trail were mere meters from my modest dwelling. Setting off, bright-eyed and light-footed, I had high expectations of what I would see ahead of me.



High expectations at high altitudes


I carried merely a sandwich, some water and the ubiquitous hiker's snack, an apple. Oh, and my camera of course. Along the way I encountered some less-than-stunning views, several abandoned military bunkers, many dog walkers, and the fence to Wellington's Zealandia. My nature dictated that I HAD to try and pry my way into the park, but of course precautions had been taken against the entrance of predatory mammals (even ones with opposable thumbs and the barest suggestion of intelligence).



Drat! Foiled again


My arrival to the windmill was anti-climactic. The views were okay, the windmill itself held my attention for about four seconds, and then I was off again. The real meat of this day was yet to be chewed.

I had located another trail, leading towards a suspicious set of structures set off towards the sea. Of special interest to me was a segmented globe resting atop a hill that looked taller than all those around it. I squared my shoulders, took a long pull from my water bottle, and set off.

Along the way I encountered some Germans (friendly), three Irish (indifferent), and an Ostrich (openly hostile). I discovered heaps of equipment used to guide incoming planes to a safe landing at Wellington Airport. There was even what was apparently an abandoned Italian castle nestled some ten kilometres distant from the nearest proper road. How it got there or who it belonged to still mystifies me. I like to envisage a renegade mafia Don, forced to flee from the men he betrayed, and trying to recreate the opulence he was accustomed to in Florence (or something).



Germans

Italians


Brief note on the wind in Wellington: at no point on this walk were the winds blowing slower than 40 km/hr. Of course, as I tracked ever upwards and became more exposed, the average windspeed rose, culminating in winds so strong that, on one particularly steep and unstable section of the hike, I was literally blown over by a gust.

Arriving at my destination, I was treated with panoramic views of Wellington from half a kilometre high, stretching from Lower Hutt, through the CBD, across Miramar all the way to Red Rocks. I could even see across the Cook straight to the South Island. I also glimpsed the rare sight of God's light, streaming down through a break in the normally thick cloud cover to bathe the western hills and the remainder of the wind farm in golden luminance. A fitting conclusion to my efforts, or so I thought.



Glory!


Also, on the way home, I learned that Brooklyn has a Butt Street. Call me a child if you must, but I was amused.


LOL BUTTS LOL


WHAT, IS THAT ALL YOU DO? HIKE?



Yeah, this is another hiking story. Well, it's more of a saga at this point. My departure from the city that has nurtured me through the past six months was anything but easy.

Lets see. I had set out to rent a car to take me to Auckland. All was fine and dandy, until I ran into some credit card troubles. That sucked, and sucked up six hours of my time that I had intended to use packing, but in the end my dad came to the rescue and all was fine. In the process, I managed to exchange my lightly-used-but-expensive rental car for a Toyota Corolla 1.6 with 330,000 kilometres on it. My rental fee dropped from $120 to $0, and so I was immensely pleased. Compound this with the fact that I took an extensive drive around Wellington in the late-afternoon sun to burn off some stress, and was accompanied by some shitty metal band doing a cover of Beyonce's All The Single Ladies, and my day had improved immensely.

The next day, I awoke early in order to meet Ray and Co. at the Wellington Train station to head out to Island Bay for, you guessed it, more hiking. This trail would lead us from Island Bay (waaaaay south) to Oriental Bay (north-ish), closely following an impulsive 18 km walk I had done in previous weeks in the wrong shoes with nothing to eat. Suffice to say I was excited to try again, this time properly prepared.

Ray attempted (with mixed results) to make up for a CRUSHING LACK OF DIWEN by substituting Simon (affectionately known as Semen), Ansel and Rob. I was unsurprised to learn that these fellows, the sort known as tuck-your-pants-into-your-socks, were a little odd, but that's Ray's friends for you. I dug it, and we all dug it, and much fun was had.



Our poor, motley crew


Highlights would probably include passing the impostor castle house along the way and our delightful lunchtime nap. As far as a final taste of the kiwi lifestyle goes, this was aces. We finished things off by stopping by Parade for coffees.



Living it up, NZ style


Of course, I was not ready to depart the company of my fellows, and so we made our way to a place known as Crocodile bikes. Now, if you have walked along the waterfront in Wellington almost every day on your way to work, then you know Crocodile Bikes. They are roofed, six-seated, four wheeled 'bicycles' (although quadcycle is more accurate, it is also a horrible word) that are used to convey hordes of slack-jawed idiot tourists along important walking paths, posing a menace to pedestrians, cyclists and all creatures great and small.

Of course, my cynicism draws from my experiences with people who rode the bikes JUST LIKE WE DID. Achieving great speeds and howling curses with buoyant joy, we swerved our way amongst the bemused and the not-so-bemused alike, oblivious and loving it. “What the hell,” I figured, “I'm leaving tonight anyways.”

We filmed large sections of the ride, played chicken with other idiots, rode down hills, reverse stall parked, and had a hell of a time. There were attempts to either skid or flip the bike, and who knows what would've happened had we occasion to jump the damn thing. I can heartily encourage everyone who plans on visiting Wellington to rent one of these. Terrorize as many as you can, I implore you.

But all things change, all things end. With a heavy heart I said my farewells. I could not linger for sorrow, and I could not leave for joy. I rushed the parting in hopes that it would hurt less if I didn't drag it out. I don't know that things could've been different, and I don't know how leaving Ray could've hurt any more.



Damn, I’m gonna miss you Ray!


But responsibility and imperatives kept me moving. My car, now filled with all my worldly possessions, chuffed and spluttered its way to Parade, giving me fierce doubts as to its ability to convey me all the way to Auckland, close to 1000 kms of road away.

My final shift is not really worth mentioning. Big private party, lots of delicious finger food, free drinks. Hundreds of 'socialites' that had passed their expiry dates in the Clinton administration. Spoiled old women who expected me to wait on them with the same deference they undoubtedly received from their boot-heeled husbands. Two awesome crusty old lesbians that kept making filthy jokes.

What really stood out about the night though was my farewell. No one seemed keen to let me go. Miri told me she was going to miss me, which is uncommonly expressive for her. Clay seemed genuinely gutted that we wouldn't be able to have a couple of drinks together before I left. To say it was touching is like saying that Romeo and Juliet is 'tragic'. It is a descriptive word, and the description fits, but it has not the scope and not the depth needed to convey what was actually felt. My eyes didn't dry until somewhere past Bulls. Ray's father might say my farewell was Remark-A-Bull. I might hit him.

THE DRIVE


With my bags in the trunk, several bottles of energy drink to hand and my foot to the floor I set off for Auckland. It was 10:30 P.M.

There's not much to say here, really. Mile after dark mile either flew, wound or crested past. Street lights and towns were easily the exception. So was radio reception. I drove in contemplative silence for hours, easing my way north. I tried not to think too much about the past, knowing that the sadness lay there, ready to crush me if I let it. I was afraid of missing Wellington, of missing Ray and Parade, too soon. So I drove.

I drove and I drove. I saw maybe fifty cars in the first hour, and none after that until about 4 A.M. I don't remember driving past Ruhapaeu, don't remember deciding to take a nap, but I remember waking, pulled safely off the road just outside of Taupo. Thank goodness my semi-conscious mind knew to pull over, lock the doors and bed down for an hour in the back seat. I awoke feeling refreshed but sweaty. In Taupo, I stopped for gas and was surrounded by the party crowd of New Zealand's resort towns, still awake and going at 2.

I made it to Auckland at 7:30, and had a nice nap in the parking lot of the car rental place. Upon emerging from my slumber, I saw relieved smiles on the faces of the staff. Apparently they had thought I was either dead, drugged or drunk. They took the car in, surprised that it had made it all this way, and then I was dropped off at the airport. Two hours aloft brought me down in Queenstown for chapter two.

QUEENSTOWN


My first thought, upon arriving in Queenstown, was 'damn, it's cold'. My second thought was 'WOOOOOOOW'. This sort of incompetent awe is commonly experienced upon first exposure to Queenstown's dramatic, transcendent beauty. Tall, powerful mountains abound. Their peaks grasp and rip clouds from the skies and send them tumbling down slopes of impressive proportions. Lake Wakatipu's blue waters fill in every gap of the horizon left blank by the absence of the earth's pillars.



A mad giant stonemason’s opus


The plane connected to the bus, and the bus led me to town. I decided to walk outwards, hoping to avoid the YHA and its brethren, preferring to stay in a more relaxed and homey place with a motto whose words are not 'getting drunk in a new city'.

I found the Alpine lodge, which fit my standards quite neatly. The ambiguous host, Oli, showed me the grounds with gusto and enthusiasm which I longed to match if only to assure him that my quiet, monosyllabic acquiescence was evidence of my fatigue and not of rudeness. He was quite happy to let me grunt my way along the tour before leaving me at my room. I immediately peeled off my sticky clothing and had a long, warm shower. I would rank it number two on the top ten list of Most Pleasurable Experiences Ever.

The rest of my evening was spent wandering, shopping and cooking. I was ready to settle down, and so I did. I filled my stomach with delicious lasagna, and started planning my time.

My budget allowed for one monumental extravagance before I went home, and based on Oli's sage advice, I settled on an overnight cruise in Doubtful Sound. Boy, was that an awesome plan!

But back to the plot. The monument of my expense precluded any of the other adventurous outings on offer in Queenstown, and so I had to make do with self-directed, self-motivated activities. I arrived on a Sunday, and had settled on an impromptu itinerary of
Monday: hike
Tuesday-Wednesday: cruise
Thursday: head to Christchurch.

Monday rolled around, and I had settled on my hike. I was going to climb

BEN LOMOND, WEIRDEST MOUNTAIN NAME EVER


Setting off, I already had pretty low hopes. It was cloudy and grey, and even The Remarkables (the Remark-A-Bulls?) were shrouded in their ugly grey garments. Ben Lomond only extended 100m above them, so I couldn't possibly hope for dramatic shots of a smooth cloudscape pierced by imposing mountain peaks. Nevertheless, I left my hostel bright and early, just catching sunrise as I reached the gondola.

I knew that, by leaving so early, I was dooming myself to an hour-long addition onto the hike. Queenstown has a gondola that climbs 800m in about ten minutes. At the top is a collection of restaurants, bungee jumping platforms, paragliding takeoff fields, and a closed asphalt luge descending through what were regretfully unpaved roads at the moment. The other benefit of taking the gondola, ignoring the views, is that it takes you to several of the main trailheads in Queenstown.

I saw none of this as I attacked the muddy service road that serves the cheap and the early risers alike. Along the way I encountered only bright-eyed dog walkers (what is it with high-altitude pets in this country, anyhow?) and the occasional sand-fly. I broke through the end of this first stretch of trail only to find the sun invisible and those foreboding clouds still looming.

Following the signs, I made it to the trail-head. Already sweaty and breathing hard, I was not in the best of spirits. I progressed along the trail to the Ben Lomond Saddle, which is unmarked. In my haste, I had tracked right into the fog, and now my visibility was down to 10m or less. Taking a 50-50 chance, I turned right, hoping that following the more steeply pitched trail would be the right decision.



Blinded by the fog


Unfortunately, I found that I had made the absolute wrong call, and after tracking along maybe 2km of ridgeline and eating my lunch, I was back where I started. Too tired to try again, too cheap to buy some food and wait for my body to recover, I gave up and went to town, determined to try again.

Back at the hostel, I received all the encouragement I needed: coaches out of Queenstown to Manapouri (the place from which the Doubtful Sound cruises depart) only leave on Monday, Wednesday, Friday. I'd be cutting it tight getting from Queenstown to Christchurch, but it'd give me a full extra day in Queenstown to retry the summit.

Fortune would have it that I would end up running into Cassandra while walking around the town. Cassandra is a Torontonian that Nathan met while I was in the Coromandel, and who shared our joy in watching Canadian boys bring home the gold in Men's Olympic Hockey. How serendipitous then, that she should be in Queenstown at the same cookie store as me, no matter how long and how disparate our personal journeys should be.

One thing led to another, and I found myself full of beer and whisky at 1 A.M. with her and her friends in some pub in the city. 'Fuck,' I said to myself in slurred tones, 'looks like that hike is out tomorrow'.

9 A.M. Mouth full of cotton. Head full of pain. Throat full of razorblades.

10 A.M. Don't wanna talk about it.

11 A.M. Stumbled to shower. Cleansed body.

12 P.M. Sitting in common room, depressed and angry at self. Eating lasagna despondently (if such a thing is possible). Upset that I won't get to see the views from 1700m, as even if I was completely hale, the fog was still thick in the sky.

1 P.M. Still despondent. But as I flip through Facebook for the thousandth time, a ray of light breaks through the window, and as I look up to the peak I will sorely regret not conquering, it is completely clear and beautiful.

I sprang to my feet, a defiant chorus on my tongue. Quickly, I threw together a hearty meal. Lucky for me that all my shopping had been based around nutritionally dense, light food. New Zealand has definitely taught me to shop for (and pack) light, delicious meals. I breezed past reception, letting them know where I'd be, in case the hangover got the best of me and I needed some sort of helicopter evacuation.

I did the lazy, expensive thing and purchased a round trip ride on the gondola. Half in the interest of expediency (seeing as the sun was setting in four hours, and the trip is supposed to be five hours from the Skyline complex) and half just for the sake of my poor aching knees (swollen from too much hiking).



Skyline complex


I will not become arrogant and boastful and tell you that I breezed through the hike. I wheezed through the hike. The whole time it felt like someone was sitting on my chest. I coughed and stumbled and took many breaks. My mental state was less than ideal. I hated this hike, hated how long it was. I could barely lift my legs by the time I made it to final pitch. It was more of a scramble, covered with slippery jagged rocks, and climbing at what felt like 2:1 (two metres forward for every one vertical). Behind me, a couple that had started at least and hour later than I was slowly gaining, their cheerful voices echoing in my embarrassment (read: motivation) and inadvertent mockery.



Inukshuk in NZ


But I made it to the peak. Sweaty, tired, sore, uncomfortable, but finally proud rather than depressed. I stood atop the peak and surveyed the sunset. The southern alps climbed in the distance, their snowy white tops glowing in the gold of the sun's dying light. Ahead, I could see those same Remarkables, and I could see Mt. Aspiring dramatically plunging straight into Lake Wakatipu without even considering levelling off, and they all cowered under my height. Backlit by the sun, I was glorious, while the others shrank into the lake and cowered. No matter which way I looked, all were below me, and for one single moment, I reigned.



THE PUNY SURROUNDING PEAKS


Then, of course, those damn runners made the peak and made small talk. The way they behaved, we had all just participated in some small, everyday task. This was just another day for them, not the greatest achievement since the laying of the foundations of the world. Damn them and their chipper optimism.



Sunset over Queenstown


So I descended, and my aching knees cursed me all the while. But I was proud. I had overcome my bad decisions, and done that which I had wanted. It felt good. It felt really good. What a perfect way to finish my time in Queenstown.



Lonely self-portrait


DOUBTFUL SOUND


This is going to be a challenge. It's hard for me to sum up this place for anyone, for any reason. My words are useful for people, for tension, even for emotional catharsis. I can use them to tell a story, to describe a meal, put you in a mood. They're there when I absolutely need them. But for such an intensely solitary place, so breathtaking and still, they fled. I had nothing in or on my mind for the 20 hours I was lucky enough to spend in such a place.



Arrival in the Sound (actually a Fiord)


I stumbled on the deck of the ship as if in that place between thought and sleep, unable to form myself. Meals were a challenge. I knew I'd have to sit and talk with people, try and make connections, but I really felt no desire to do anything other than stare out those windows. Absently I discussed Canadian bears, but my heart longed to be outside.

Moments stand out. On the drive down, the first narrow blue skies opened up above the sound, and I was excited. I could see what I was approaching, and I was glad for it. We made our way out into the wider part of the fiord (referred to erroneously as a sound) and I was dumbstruck. We all were. Even the rude, nattering, deliberately unilingual Asian tourists that seem to follow me no matter what city or country I visit were temporarily silenced by the splendour.



The Sound becomes audible


The sun shone brightly through the clear skies to illuminate the kilometre-high mountains that dived straight into the sea. Their densely wooded sides represent some of the least-disturbed ecology in the entire country. The whole area is enfolded withing the loving arms of the world's third largest national park. In the mornings, the calls of wild kiwis were audible. Islands exist on the coast that had never been profaned by the predation of mammals.



Our boat for the time being


Words like 'remote' and 'untouched' are appropriate but cliched. Sacred, silent. These are much more effective. For those so inclined, they could come here to worship at the verdant green heart of Gaea, the earth mother. She clutches to her bosom the fragile and the beautiful. Up her neck grow mosses to which giant venerable trees cling tenuously.



They call it the Sound of Silence


There were sea birds and dolphins and sea lions at sunset on the Tasman. We could look out to sea and watch our red-golden sun slowly turn away. Its ever-fading light silhouetted an albatross as he traced lazy trails through the sky, spreading his wings across our eyes. If I had the will to do so, I could've torn my sight 'round and saw imposing mountains softened to a buttery glow by the sun's heat and the tones of the coming night.



Albatross at Sunset


I took a breath in, and held it. The sun dipped below the horizon, and the illumination slowly died. I finally exhaled.

When morning came, I was on deck in the stillness before our engines had started. It speaks to the isolation of the place that not even the ripple of a seagull's landing marred the smoothness of the water's surface. “Glassy,” folks say. “Mirrorlike.”



Morning mists


I watched the sun touch the tips of those hills, hardened again in the overnight chill. I heard, in the silence, the water fiercely cascading down, softened to serenity by the distance. I heard Tuis calling out, their unique voices bringing the sun back again for another clear day. Sadly, I realized that this might be the last Tui I ever listened to.

The rest of the day passed in that sedate haze that is brought on by overwhelming beauty. I talked a little more, smiled at folks, and regretted that it had to end.

Without a doubt(ful Sound), my trip would not have been complete had I not come.




THE PART WHERE I TALK ABOUT WHAT I LEARNED



Heh, just kidding. Some things are too personal to blog about.

But this trip has changed me. Big trips do that. It's what I set out for, and what I got. Of course, I couldn't have envisioned what was coming for me. Had I been able to, the vacation would've been redundant.

But I have grown. It's hard to say where the label of 'boy' ends and when one can assume status as a 'man'. It's been a pursuit of mine for a long time now. I feel like I left behind my label a long time ago, but I also feel that the mantle of 'man' would slip down my shoulders, which are too narrow to hold it. But this trip has pushed me forward, towards being who I want to be, who I should be. Out there, somewhere, is the man I want to be. I can't see him yet. He's too far beyond the horizon. But I'm heading towards him.

Foremost for me now is not the whims of others, or achieving things for any sake other than my own. I say that without fully accomplishing it, but it has become my goal. If I am to be a man, I must be an end. I must be a goal, not a tool for others. And so I will no longer be. If you wish to understand my transformation, my growth from New Zealand, then you must first understand that I will be no man's means. I am an end, my own end, and I will not tolerate any person's attempts to modify, subvert or destroy that.

Oh, and I got a totally hot girlfriend from this trip, too. That was kind of awesome.

Goodbye, New Zealand. I may not be able to care for you like my first true love (Vancouver), but you will always fill my heart with fond, loving joy.

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April 29th, 2010


10:47 am - OLDSKOOL PICTOGRAPHIC ENTRY
I haven't done one of these in a while! Ray, Diwen and I all went for a hike, and I'm gonna Show&Tell you all about it!



First off, those two goofy folks pictured above are gonna be walking the Great Wall of China within the next few years, and to do so, they need to start training now. SO! They have started doing weekly hikes around Wellington in order to impart to their bodies a sort of titanium hardness and to train a steely resolve into their minds. I, in my sad shape of disrepair, was invited to participate in one of these epic training hikes, mostly for social reasons.



Along a road about fifteen or twenty kilometers out from Eastbourne is the Old Pencarrow Lighthouse (atop the hill), which is NZ's first ever lighthouse. It has a long and storied history that eventually ended up with it being replaced with a lighthouse at beach level.


Ray looking out over the lighthouse


The hills we hiked across


When we reached the Lighthouse, the wind was FIERCE


The hike up to the lighthouse was steep, but manageable. I was thrown back into old times, back at Kowhai house, when us vollies would all get together and do a day hike. Upon reaching the INCREDIBLY WINDY lighthouse we puffed out our jackets and ran around making airplane noises, proving our wisdom and maturity for all to see.

Our path then turned inland as we intended to hike around the beautiful Lake Kohangapiripiri. The lake was to be our stop for lunch, which turned out to be an astute decision, as it was filled with graceful and beautiful black swans, in numbers I've never encountered before.


Lunchtime!


Swans!


Our winding path led us through swamps, up hillsides, past giant spiders and dense clumps of that horrible bush known as gorse.


The far side of the lake


DAMN YOU GORSE!


Eventually, we descended to the beach, where, short on water and energy, we had to take a brief liedown.


The fastest way to get down a hill


Ahh, feels good to have a nap


It was also at this point that I decided to be as environmentally responsible as possible, and bypass the entire Wellington sewage system by peeing into the sewage outflow pipe along the beach.

We returned along the road we started our hike on, exhausted and thirsty, but also proud and in high spirits. Along the way, we met several wise goats, talked about love and hypocrisy, and sang silly songs. To reward our efforts, we purchased large piles of fush and chops to consume in the cool comfort of Ray and Diwen's place.


Damn, I am going to miss this place.

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April 12th, 2010


09:40 pm - Show of Shows; Or, How I Met Three Goats
My sore, tired feet slapping at the pavement, a cold coffee in my hand, I raced up Cuba street. In my back pocket, a ticket. Printed on the ticket, between a myriad of rules and regulations, were the words 'The Mountain Goats'.

I had budgeted my time poorly that Friday, leaving from my apartment in Brooklyn several minutes after the time mentioned on my ticket. I had also been up since before the sun rose, struggling with a bizarre sleep schedule that sees me lying down my head any time after midnight, only to be awoken by nothing five or six hours later. Hence, the coffee.

It was a weak shot, watery and vile, but it contained that bitter alkaloid known as Caffeine, and so it was good.

My feet raced as I glanced at my watch every few minutes, determined not to run, but equally determined to waste as little time as possible. Cafes and kebab shops flashed by, as my feet wove intricate lines between those just beginning to feel Friday night infiltrate their bloodstream. Crowds of minglers and loiterers spilled out onto the sidewalk, making efficient progress all but impossible.

Eventually, however, I reached my destination. Relieved that I couldn't hear any music reverberating from the top floor of Wellington's San Francisco Bath House, I lingered a moment over my poor, cold coffee, eager to absorb as much caffeine as I could before venturing into the clamorous dark interior.

A Wellington institution, SFBH has been bringing some of the world's best rock and roll to New Zealand for years and years. Recently, they've branched out, bringing in Electronica, R&B, Hip Hop and Reggae acts in as well, but the bar's Rock roots show.

After making my way inside and receiving a lecture from the hilariously Russian door-man ("You bring passport next time to enter. Only passport, no drivers license."), I let my feet carry me upstairs. Once inside, I couldn't help but be underwhelmed. Essentially one big, rectangular room, the walls are adorned with colourful, kitschy murals a la Yellow Submarine. On one wall, proceeding from the stage outwards, are the toilets, the coat check, the stair well, and six or seven booths.

On this evening, despite my tardiness, the big room was relatively empty. My heart began pounding with excitement as I took in the stage. It was level with the crowd, rather than set back. I could, I thought, get close enough to high-five the band!

I sauntered towards the bar, aware of how conspicuous I was in this empty place. Every eye turned upon me for a moment as the surrounding conversations slipped into silence. With the full weight of the bar's twenty patrons awaiting what I'd do next, I confidently ordered a Highland Park, neat, from the barman.

Now, I feel comfortable calling Davey a barman, rather than bartender, for a number of reasons. Even as I sized him up from a dozen feet away, I could feel his presence. His ginger hair was long and slicked back in a style long forgotten by most for good reason, and used to great effect for some. A narrow, young, but wise face gave way to a cleanly pressed white-shirt-and-black-tie. Those with an eye for detail would notice the silver sleeve garters used to hold his pressed cuffs out of the myriad of drinks he would be pouring that evening.

Upon ordering my whisky, I immediately like the man. He speaks in the slow, ponderous way of a person who is absolutely confident they have your attention. And he does. His movements are graceful and unhurried, showing a familiarity with his surroundings that can only come from years of inhabitance. Each movement, be it grabbing a jigger, polishing a glass or smelling the stopper of the bottle, is finished with a small flourish, like an exclamation rather than a stop. When he says "I'm sorry, did you say neat or with ice?", his whole body freezes as he stops his pour midway, before so much as even a drop has touched my clean glass.

Excited to try a new Scotch, I swirl the liquid amber around the heavy bar glass, taking in its sweet, peaty aroma. I try not to show my excitement, seeing as childish giddiness is not befitting of the man who takes his Scotch neat. The glass reaches my lips, and I sip slowly, appreciating a new expression of an old friend. Damn good stuff, says I.

I circumambulate the room, taking a moment to drop off my coat. Although we are all here for a common purpose, I find it hard to start a conversation. Not that my social graces seem to have fled, but I just had no desire to try and force a connection with anyone that evening. Minus a few brief words here and there, I was perfectly content to enjoy my drink in silence.

Of course, contentment is a middling state, between ecstasy and despair. A good baseline to begin an evening with. I reflect, as I return to lean on the bar, that while I am content now, I have no doubt that my mood will improve throughout the evening.

I watch Davey pour a drink for a couple of cute twentysomethings, and notice that it contains both cucumber and Ch'i (a sparkling water flavored with rhubarb and aloe). Intrigued (and feeling a little mischevious), I ambulate towards the giggly pair. Davey is moving with that same patience that seems remarkable in an atmosphere where up-tempo music blares at impatient patrons. I mentally note this as a skill to learn. When I've arrived beside the girls, I flash them a small smile, designed to disarm without being too open, and ask "what's that you're drinking there?".

A storm of nervous laughter is all I get in response at first. Both of the girls seem to grip on to the bar more tightly, and a flush comes into the pale, kiwi face of the taller of the two. In their native patois, the girls stumble over their words and talk across each other. The shyer half seems insistent upon the fact that they're meeting a couple of guys later, while the other tries to explain that, while they asked the bartender for something refreshing, they have no idea what they're receiving.

Ever gallant, the very man mixing the drinks begins to explain that he was mixing Feijoa Vodka (feijoas being a small, green, acidic fruit vastly different from a lime), Chi and cucumber to create what is known as a "Falling Water". Once these two Falling Waters have been created and purchased, I use my best bartender voice to tell the girls "Enjoy your drinks", before returning to my conversation with Davey. A mystified expression on the more outgoing girl is the last thing I catch before I turn back to my conversation.

"Did you want one for yourself?" inquires my new friend, reveling in the ambiguity.

"Naw. I've already got one, and I'd like to stick with it for a while," I say, gesturing with my glass, maintaining the wit.

What followed was a fairly in-depth conversation about the virtues of Hendrick's gin in a Falling Water (a suggestion I made that he had tried several times to great effect), and of our mutual love for Scotch. At the bar, they had a bottle of Aberlour A'Bundah, a old-style, cask strength whisky. As the crowd began to round out the edges of the room, I could see Davey eyeing the other bartender, aware of the crowds. With the assurance that I would have an ounce or two later in the evening, I left the man to work with pendulous consistency throughout the night.

When the house lights went down and Luke Buda, our courageous opener, got up on stage, the response was less than exciting. The poor man stood their, tuning his guitar and looking unsurprised by the lack of enthusiasm. Guilty-sounding applause trickled out slowly from the back of the room, inspiring the pack to a small burst of clapping and nervous laughter. Mr. Buda looked genuinely surprised, and quite pleased to receive even this cursory enthusiasm.

His set was short at 45 minutes, but in reality he only seemed to play for ten. Between his sweet voice, clever lyrics and odd stage mannerisms ("KEY CHANGE", he would shout, before dropping from A to G), he was one of the most tolerable, even entertaining openers I'd ever seen.

I still believe his strength came from making the time pass quickly. My heart was racing, as lines from the songs I knew by heart kept playing over and over in my head. "Hand in unloveable hand" was on infinite repeat as I impatiently paced around the crowd. "The taste of Scotch rich on my tongue," echoed as I fulfilled my promise to Davey, swapping the sweet, heathery Highland Park for the rich oak character of the Aberlour.

Dischordant and angry, "I woke up afraid of my own shadow. Like, genuinely afraid!" was all I heard in the noisy, silent crowd while I squeezed my way up to the front row. While I have honed this survival skill at concerts to a near-art, I rely on being small and difficult to notice. The hat I was wearing precluded those qualities and greatly impeded my progress. Ahh, the price I pay for being dapper.

Finally, the songs racing around between my ears squeezed their way out onto the stage, as the three neatly dressed men that comprise The Mountain Goats made their way on stage. From the first notes pounded out of the piano as a violent man might strike his wife in a frenzy, from "I became a crystal healer and my ministry was to the sick", from the first forward swell of the tidal crowd, I knew this was different.

In contrast with the low-fi, folky feel of the album recordings, the live show had this incredible weight. Jon Wurster forced the drums into a throbbing frenzy while the thin plywood floors warped beneath our feet. Peter Hughes on bass, dressed sharply in a grey, pinstriped three piece suit, threw his bass around with an aggressive precision, focused and serious. The abusive keyboardist, the man we were all here to see, John Darnielle, cannot seem to contain the huge thing inside of him. Bursting onto the stage to sit down, he stands up just as quickly, almost propelled vertically by the intensity of his playing.

Arms wild and disarrayed when they are not pounding the keys, John (who resembles the love child of Stephen Colbert and Bob Dylan) lets out an incredible yell, before picking up his guitar and surging to the front of the stage. The passion, the intensity of this man verges on unbelievable. His eyes look like they'll burst out of his head every time he declares damnation, or howls something beautiful.

The concert progresses too quickly for me. I am left reeling from the opener while John dives into the story behind the next song. His between-song persona is a marked contrast to the man he is during his songs. Anger and insecurity became a smooth, sardonic and bitter humor. Eliciting laughter from the audience with his long and involved anecdotes of suffering, he seems a strangely consummate showman. His rehearsed manner belies the incredible sincerity of his music, and is jarring at first. But when the tunes begin, you'll forget.

Just as the words begin to sink in to my soft fleshy brain, the next aural assault begins.

They don't look tired. They don't look sick of each other. Their antics don't look rehearsed. None of them look like they'd rather be somewhere else. Everyone on that tiny stage is exactly where they want to be, doing what they want to do. As each fought with his own internal demons, he looked to the others for support and found them there. A smile would grow, and the music would build, and the whole process would repeat until the words and notes had been exhausted.

As the last notes finished resounding in our hollow skulls, a great and thunderous applause rose from the crowd. Genuine, appreciative and grateful applause. "Thank you so much," John would repeat as a mantra after every song.

The concert deliberately took a bit of a lull as the band left the stage, leaving John to dazzle us with intimate performances of songs he claimed had never been released on any major album.

"Some songs, you know, just sound great when you record them. But when you try to put them somewhere on the album, you realize they don't fit. They just float around, unloved, until a night like tonight, when I can show them the love they deserve."

Many tunes that night were preceded by stories beginning "You know that feeling you get when it's Wednesday and you're already out of amphetamines?", or "I drove past a church selling commemorative plates". But as the band rejoined John, as those incredible throbbing drums began again, those long stories just became necessary distraction between each glorious explosion of colour and sound.

As you must blink even while watching a masterpiece unfold on celluloid, so those songs must demarcate and so the band must allow the crowd a few minutes to breath before suffocating us with their power again.

Now the atmosphere was growing more dense, and their power was building. As we came to the end of the set, and as the appropriately dance-able 'Dance Music' finished pounding out, every little hint and suggestion of performance we had been given throughout the night was explained and refined. John abusing his keyboard again, Peter letting his bass feed back to the point that nearly nothing else could be heard over that animalistic hum, the whole band convulsing with magic and passion and sheer uncontainable feeling. John yelled, and played, and let out a world-rending scream.

Everything was crashing and kicking and growing and exploding and it all became too big to exist and then it was over. One last "Thank you so much," and they were gone.

At first, too stunned to move, we stared, wondering where our lives had gone when those men had departed.

Then grew the applause and the hoots and the chants of 'encore' The band could've left for hours and had dinner and seen a movie and come back and we all would've still been chanting. That's exactly what it felt like.

So when, a mere five minutes later, they ran back to the stage and took up their instruments, our silent hearts finally restarted.

The encore wasn't exactly pandering, but it was obvious that there is only so much three men can give of themselves. There was no way to reach the same height of power in a short encore, so they threw out perennial favorites instead. The crowd laughed and clapped along with "No Children", and all was good.

The encore closed, but we could not slake our thirst. It wasn't enough. Nothing could ever be enough. Encore, encore, encore, we called again.

Again the band reappeared, accompanied by a brief lecture about how 'punk rock' short sets are, and how John wished he didn't give a damn, and how he cared too much to just walk off. Nevertheless, this would be the last song, he told us.

It all came together for me then. The passion, the ferocity, the poetry of the night meant something. Everyone began to sing. Along with the rest of the crowd, I began too. We all shouted and spread our arms wide and opened our eyes.

I looked around the crowd and smiled at everyone and believed. I looked at John, and he looked right back at me. I smiled, and opened my eyes as wide as they would go. He shook his head, looked away and looked back. He opened his eyes just as wide, and each saw inside the other. Between verses, he laughed and played on.

Standing there, at that moment, I really believed it. I was going to. I was! I, I thought, am going to make it through this year, if it kills me.

Postscript:
The show did end, and the sound did die, and we did feel drunk and tired and thirsty. I did go back and talk to Davey, and learned some new things. I learned this man who had helped me discover some glorious new Scotch was named Davey. I learned that, if you tip a bartender in New Zealand for making your night even better than you could have ever expected, he will give you a shot of Fernet Branco in a white porcelain shot glass with scenes from the Kama Sutra on it. Apparently, I learned from another bartender, Davey only brings out the 'porno-shot-glasses' for people he really likes.

I learned that the whole band is quite down to earth, as they actually came out to mingle with the crowd afterwards. Jon the drummer is very, VERY funny, and has a remarkably high-pitched voice that enhances his humor.

Peter is quite the mingler, chatting with music journalists, young beautiful women and dapper Canadians quite naturally. He's also WAY more in to the Vancouver music scene than I am, and I must admit that I had to feign knowledge of several bands I'd never heard of, and admit to enjoying albums I'd never listened to.

John is... well, I can't say that I'm surprised he's a dick. In seeking a gift for my good friend Dan, who is the reason I went to this show in the first place, John managed to sass me so hard I almost lost my composure. But for an ass, he is also a remarkably erudite and mature ass. He graciously accepted my compliments, answered my questions, fulfilled my requests, and even joked around with me a bit. For those of you in the know, you will be glad to hear that he (and the band) appreciated the irony of the fact that I TOLD JOHN DARNIELLE A LONG STORY.

He also was kind enough to invite me to the show in Vancouver, which I will gladly attend. The man has shown me what a clever, if dorky, kid can do with his writing, and I will follow him to learn what I can.

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April 2nd, 2010


12:41 pm

New Job!


No, this one isn't about O'Hara. While I'm here in Wellington, I need money too. The Parade Cafe is a ton of fun, and I love some of the staff there, but they just can't give me the hours I need. As such, I decided to move my considerable skills into the challenging field of washing dishes.

The Felix Cafe is located on the corner of Cuba st. (The eccentric, counter-culture center of Wellington) and Wakefield st. (Which connects the business district to the tourist district along the waterfront). It is very popular, highly regarded and a cool melting-pot of three distinct parts of the Wellington culture. Between the tables are a collection of suits, backpacks and skateboards, belonging to businessmen, foreigners, and damn punk kids, respectively.

The menu is brilliant, and rotates often. On the weekends, an excellent brunch is served from 8:30 onwards, and during the week, breakfast and dinner are both available. Some of my favorite items that I've tried so far were the buttermilk pancakes with grilled bananas, the wagyu burger, and the braised lamb shank.

While I initially signed on to wash dishes, I was quickly moved to the front of house. I appreciated the change as it brought me more hours,but it has also made certain things very apparent. One of those things is the utter insanity of the staff there.

Now, the restaurant industry is stressful. It is populated by dramatic personalities fighting with unfair work hours, unreasonable customers and busy service after busy service. But nothing I've ever experienced has quite prepared me for Sam. Sam is one half of the management team, and also one of the line cooks at Felix. Now, to me this seems strange, but since I've spoken to some of the people at Felix, it has an element of sense to it.

Sam has worked in restaurants her whole life. She has always been good at it, and she produces good food. Unfortunately, she never really bothered to learn how to run an entire cafe, and as a result, feels most comfortable and most successful behind a hot stove. She leaves all the paperwork to Serena, the calm, matronly other half of the management.

But Sam's volatility and lightning quick temper are all that really stand out about her personality. Within five minutes of starting my first front of house shift, on a busy Sunday, Sam lost her temper with me and started yelling at me for 'not knowing the menu'. I won't waste time with defending myself, but I will assert that this struck me as pretty unfair.

You see, Sam doesn't come from the 'Chef Ramsay Yelling at Fucking Everyone All the Time' school of management. She instead has created her own revolutionary method of 'Use Your Employees as Punching Bags for Your Own Emotional Issues' (Or UYEPBOWEI) school of employee relations.

A relatively new school, UYEPBOWEI sets itself apart by not endeavoring to make its employees happy or successful, but instead by attempting to make everyone as miserable and unfulfilled as the graduate. The leading cafe scientists around the world have compiled the results from all management teams employing this method worldwide, and have shockingly concluded that "it makes for a shit working environment". (The New School: UYEPBOWEI, B. Ollocks, et al, 2008)

As a result, most of the staff there are pretty tough, highly confrontational and easily stressed. Of course, this tendency is lessened when Sam isn't around (read: seldom), but it's interesting to see how the personality of the management absolutely pervades the environment of the cafe. It's the same at Parade, where Di's well-organized, hands-off, low-stress management style creates a really pleasant and easy-going work environment, marred only by the occasional narcissistic power-mad management student.

My time in the front of house, while stressful and rather uninspiring (service-wise), has also allowed me even more time behind the proverbial wheel of the espresso machine. I only wish I had a higher caffeine tolerance, as I'd love to make and drink coffees all day long. But as it is, I'll settle for learning to improve through repetitive tasks and the occasional (and getting even more occasional) complaint.

I am learning to love the process, though. The smell of the beans as they are freshly ground, and the sound and feel of the bash-box as I clean out the grips. The feel of the fresh grounds sticking to my fingers as I level them out, the way the grounds look (all shiny and smooth) after I've tamped them. The first few drops of espresso quickly coalescing into a thin stream as they pour into the cup. I will say that watching the crema slowly settle into the thick, black espresso is probably the coolest part of the whole process. The chemist in me loves watching a colloidal emulsion lose stability and seperate, while the epicure in me revels in the complex aroma and rust-red coloration.

Then, the shriek of the steam wand as it plunges into cool milk, as a small child would after jumping into a frigid lake. As the child chatters its teeth, the wand breaks the surface of the milk briefly, incorporating air and producing a repetitive, percussive sound. I love to watch the milk swirl and rise in the jug even as I can feel the milk being heated towards that perfect temperature. When, at last, the sweet, smooth, silky foam has been created, a small offering is made to the gods of coffee. I spoon off the top of the foam, a sacrifice to acknowledge everything from the seed through the growers and pickers and packers and roasters, the calf through the feed through the milking and bottling.

Pouring kind of feels a travesty, then, as my shaky hands and lack of experience can produce, at best, a messy heart (and at worst, a phallus that prompted me to throw out a perfect cup). But I continue to practice, and to improve my burgeoning passion. Maybe I should try and get a job as a barista one of these days.

There are a few bright spots at the new job, as well. I am getting all the hours I need, and yet the long shifts fly by in a haze of dozens of meals, hundreds of coffees, a handful of fun customers. For instance, I have now met Brian, one of the regulars, who worked with Weta Digital for 10 years, mostly on the LotR projects. You know that eagle scene in Return of the King? Yeah, I met the guy who did most of the work on that.

Some of my coworkers, when they are not hungover, stressed out, emotional or detached, can almost be described as fun, too! But, unfortunately, behind our coldly aloof masks, most of us Felix operators aren't nearly as happy as cafe staff should be.

Good thing they pay me well.

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April 1st, 2010


03:04 pm - Building to a close
Wow! It seems like, if I neglect my blog long enough, I actually come up with something to say. Funny how that works.

Changes


For those of you who haven't been keenly scrutinizing my life through Facebook's lens, I have a lot of big news! A lot of changes in my life. Big things. Things that are big, that have also changed. Changing things that are useful for building suspense.

Alright, I'll let you in on it. First off, I've gotten myself a summer job!

Lake O'Hara lodge is situated right on the B.C./Alberta border in Yoho National Park. It's about 16 KM outside of Lake Louise, and so situated right in the centre of the Canadian Rockies. The lodge, built in 1923 for rail passengers looking for somewhere a little bit more remote than Chateau Lac Louise, can hold about 65 guests at its peak.

I will be spending six days a week in the kitchen, cooking either breakfast and lunch, or lunch and dinner for the entire resort. On my time off, I will either be hiking, reading, writing or participating in the weekly staff talent show.

Oh, did I not mention? Every Saturday the resort puts on a show run and created by the staff, for the guests. It promises sublime moments of camp, as well as some hilarity and maybe the odd piece of talent.

I am incredibly excited. The pay is good, I'll go back to a fun communal living situation, I'll get an opportunity to improve my landscape photography and my writing, I'll get to make new friends, see amazing sights, and work as a cook again. I see no reason not to be completely excited.

Other changes have not been so positive, but are also not for a public forum. I will say that, while the process has been difficult, the results have been healthy.

Answers


Now, some may be wondering why I've decided to come home before the expiration of my 1-year working permit. While I will admit that this is not according to my plan, it's also something that I'm pretty comfortable with.

I realized about a month ago that the vacation is over. With full-time work, rent, an internet bill, and all those other trappings of adulthood, I wasn't on a road trip anymore. I'd settled down.

So the time came to make a change, and it was easy enough. I picked out a handful of resort jobs back home that looked exciting and paid well, and set out to applying. I can put the lifelong vacation on hold for a few months while I save up some cash.

I applied to places like The Wickanninish Inn in Tofino, and Sonora Resort, a fishing lodge off of Northern Vancouver Island. Unfortunately, due to the competitive nature of employment in these locations, nothing ever came of it. But there was a benefit to the hours I spent researching those places and putting resumes and applications together.

The idea of going home to work in a resort was appealing enough to me that I began to invest a pretty significant amount of time in it. Consequently, I had an opportunity to refine my applications over and over to the point where, when I came across the posting for Lake O'Hara, the cover letter flowed from the tips of my fingers like so much fine wine.

Not only did my application feel strong, but it felt honest, too. I felt like the job would be a good fit, combining the more dramatic elements of my personality with my passion for cooking. The phone interview was perfect, too. When asked if I had any concerns about communal living, I cited being raised in a co-housing community, attending summer camps, and participating with the GVN. When asked if I minded helping with things outside the kitchen, I mentioned my dad's ability to fix pretty much anything and how that had rubbed off on me somewhat, and my experiences at Nu (wherein I had to ride my bike to the plumbing supply store in the middle of a shift to get a bit of pipe to fix a leaky sink).

What finally clinched it for me was the generous reference provided by Michelle at the Montanas in Walnut Grove. I have been told that she had nothing but kind words for my work ethic and personality, and for this I am most thankful to her (especially after she put up with me for nine months of employment!).

I can finish this update with a copy of the description of me that will appear in the binder left in every guest's room.

"A true vagabond and raconteur, Corbin would not find himself out of place in a picaresque novel. He was captured in the harsh wilderness of New Zealand and has been flown in to serve you delicious meals prepared with passionate panache. While not toiling in the kitchen, he enjoys boldly exploring the untamed Canadian rockies with his camera firmly in hand.
At the end of the day, Corbin enjoys nothing more than sitting down with a glass of the finest Scotch whisky (neat, if you please) in one hand and a thrilling tale of adventure in the other. His quest, after O'Hara, is to continue chasing an untameable beauty across the vast plains of Denmark."

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March 19th, 2010


09:56 pm
To live in fear, and to defy it! I am living in fear, and it is a most exhausting exercise.

I would rather be fearless than courageous.

I will, like John Darnielle of The Mountain Goats fame, make it through this year. Even if it kills me.

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March 14th, 2010


07:49 pm - Warning: Mature Content
It has recently been made known to me that some people are offended that I have chosen to state the fact that I have sex with my girlfriend. Now, I feel as though I could spend a whole post defending why that particular revelation was important to the story I was telling, but I don't feel the need to. Instead, I've written a small poem.

Here, I wrote this for you!Collapse )

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March 11th, 2010


05:43 pm - Camping Is Not Romantic
You've all seen the photos: a smiling couple dressed in the latest North Face fashion, their well tanned faces lit by a driftwood fire. Above them the moon shines full in a cloudless sky, and you can see its reflection; it's as if the sea is filled with all the small change in a busker's hat. Behind them stands their proud tent, capacious and well ventilated. There is no sweat, no bugs, no spade for digging a toilet.

I think tenting was intended for androids. At the very least, it was meant for people who are not sensitive to humidity, sand, tiny sleeping mats, bug bites, eliminating in public, rain, seawater or lack of sleep. For those of us who get suckered in by the pretty pictures, but are sensitive to such common natural phenomena, the experience is wholly unpleasant.

In other words, camping is an ADVENTURE. But not the sort of adventure where the exhaustion, the pain, the confusion, the frustration and the mistakes are all forgivable because you're having so much fun. It's more the sort of adventure that is only fun in the retelling. It is fun only because it makes others laugh, or gasp, or suddenly appear sympathetic. Such was my adventure.

The day had began with us leaving Coromandel Town. By the time 2 P.M. had rolled around, Nat and I had made it to Whitianga. We grabbed a bite and then grabbed a map, more than ready to head off towards whatever interesting attractions were nearby. After weighing our options, we decided on Hahei, which is the closest town to both Hot Water Beach and Cathedral Cove.

To get there, we had to grab a small ferry across one of the narrowest points of Mercury Bay. This trip, at $2 per person and a total travel time of five minutes, was highly preferable to trying to hitch the 30+ kilometers of road to Hahei. What we didn't know, of course, was that it was still nearly ten klicks from the opposite side of the ferry to Hahei.

Our attempts to hitchhike failed and Nat and I inevitably ended up wandering down to one of the thousands of beautiful and accessible beaches dotted around the peninsula. They are so hard to resist. Especially when they give you an opportunity to leave behind your forty pound backpack and lay in the sun.

If I am an android, I am solar powered. After spending a blissful hour or two soaking up rays and reading, Nat and I felt renewed enough to attempt to set up our tent. Now, I will say that our experience matched the stereotype in one sense: we did have a big tent. After a mistake or two, we managed to get the whole thing set up, tied down, aired out and generally ready to sleep in.

We spent some time excersizing in the tent. During this time, I was praying loudly in my own head that there weren't any children on the beach to overhear us. Once we were finished, the tent was so hot and humid that there were literal clouds inside it.

After emerging, shamed and satisfied, from our cloudy, steamy tent Nat and I decided to befriend a couple of seagulls. During this time, Natacha Knows-Too-Much-About-Birds-And-Unicorns Severin taught me how to distinguish between a young and mature seagull. It was also then that we both learned that young seagulls are aggressive and demanding.

In fact, one of the younglings who had taken too us (he was probably just hungry) quickly earned himself the nickname John Mohawk. As you may have guessed, he was the only bird on the beach who looked like he was sporting a mohawk. As he ran in a broad circle around us, chasing off gulls more than twice his size, he was yelling and screaming bloody murder. Unfortunately for his dignity, bloody murder sounded like nothing more than a dog's squeaky toy.

As we devoured some bread and tossed the crumb's to JM, I muttered something in the Manson family's notorious mockery of a German accent. What I have since learned is that my take on this mockery is uncannily accurate. From my first "Oh yeaaaah", Natacha was in stitches, incapable of standing from laughter.

Such was the birth of my German alter ego. On a day that rapidly went from fun and adventurous into uncomfortable and irritating, my mind split in two. On one side, my most serious and brilliant thoughts. The other contained only Sauerkraut and Bratwurst.

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