It is better to be an outcast, a stranger in one’s own country, than an outcast from one’s self. It is better to see what is about to befall us and to resist than to retreat into the fantasies embraced by a nation of the blind.
Chris Hedges

Monday, July 26, 2004

Me Pals...and Fellow Travellers

I have great pals.  You've met a host but there are so many more.  There is gal Sal.  I met her through a previous relationship and after the relationship blew up, well, Sally and I were neighbours and we had developed a great relationship.  There was an understanding that we would each be there for each other.  Maybe I'm reading too much into it.  But as older singles we wondered what would happen if the other should die.  So we made a pact to cover each other.  I knew what she looked good in, so dressing her wouldn't be a problem.  I would have to take care of her cats...which would be problematic, living in New Zealand and all.  But I would find them good homes.  There was always a gentle hope that we might end up together, but it just wasn't to be.  So we chose to be pals.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Public Enemy Number 1 Posted by Hello

The Possum Hunter

Dear Fellow Travellers:

New Zealand is a country blessed with a lack of predators. True, you can be gored by a wild boar if you are hunting it and I have heard tales of people getting a tusk in the leg or groin and bleeding to death. But for the most part a walk in the park is just that.

At the turn of the 1900's someone thought it would be a good idea to import possums from Australia to establish a fur trade here. In Australia the possum is a protected species because wild dingos, tasmanian devils, and whatnot love to eat them. But in New Zealand the possum has no enemies and has prospered. There are estimates that there are more than 70 million possums here. They eat the leaves of native trees at a prolific rate and have a very healthy breeding cycle.

When I first got here I would swerve to avoid them on the roads - karma and all that. But when I moved to Pawarenga and looked forward to eating the plums off our tree, my attitude took an abrupt turn. Just off the side of our house is a lovely plum tree. Just as they were getting ready to pick I noticed a troop of possums in it taking a bite out of a piece of fruit, dropping it and moving on to another.

They weren't too concerned about me being there. I grabbed my trusty sand wedge and gave one a solid whack in the guts. It looked at me and took another piece of fruit. I went into Jim's garage next door and grabbed his flounder spear and thrust it into his hide, coming away with a ball of fur on the tine...the possum took another piece of fruit. "Okay," says I, "the gloves are off."

A quick call to Anahera's brother got me his old 22 and after three shots there were three dead possums. By the end of the night I shot another five. For the next couple of weeks I spent an hour after supper clearing the brutes out. The dogs love to eat possums. And they eat all of the possum. They were getting awfully fat.

A few weeks ago, my neighbour, Bobby Proctor, took me up into the Warawara forest to poison possums. He does it for a living and there were dozens of decomposing carcasses around each poison set, but still they keep coming.

Falling back onto my military training, I purchased a pellet gun, a Turkish model that fires a .177 slug at 1200 feet per second. I bought a maglite and taped it to the barrel and last but not least I purchased a scope. The interesting thing about the possum is that it does not have a typical nervous system. When it is hit it carries on eating. Even with a .22 it will not stop eating. You have to hit it in a critical spot to drop it.

I have now gotten to the point where I can hit the damn things in the eye, and yet they stay alive. The best spot seems to be a small area under the chin and above the shoulder.

Last night I grabbed a team of shooters; Bobby, his grandsons Tinny and Hori, and we went out to slaughter as many as we could find. We shot 6. These animals have gotten to the point where they turn their eyes away so the light doesn't give them away.

The slug gun I bought is the most powerful air rifle made and certainly it hammers the possums but lacks the hitting power to drop them. So I am going to research and get me a semi-automatic .223 rifle with a hefty hunting light, perhaps a converted M16. I have to get a gun licence first and that costs $127. so this may take a while. But this is war dammit!

On the hunt.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Ana and me at home Posted by Hello

The Job

Dear Fellow Travellers:

To my mind the earning that one has to do to survive has very little to do with the satisfaction received from the doing.

I began working at a McDonalds when I was fifteen years old. A hamburger cost 20cents as did the fries and a small drink. I earned 90 cents an hour and specialized in toasting the buns...Yes, I was a Bun Man.

McDonalds was fun in that the $80 a fortnight earned went towards those things that drove the interest of a typical 15-year-old, girls. We had terrific after-hours parties during which we poured Southern Comfort down the throats of girls to get them to take their pants off. I only succeeded once.

In truth the girl was semi-unconscious at the time but I took her murmurings to be assent as I struggled to pull her pants down as far as her knees. Unfortunately, she chose that moment to retch all over the both of us. The sound of her retching rallied her girlfriend to enter the room and she backhanded me off the bed.

McDonalds was a good place to work. Since then I have had many jobs: I pumped gas, worked as a shipper/receiver, was a sailor - then a soldier, was an order desk clerk, salesman, marketing assistant. I studied at a Polytechnic and after receiving my degree worked as a switchboard operator. I became a construction laborer, concrete finisher, security guard, education officer, communications manager and campaign manager.

I chucked it all in to become a carpenter. That lasted a couple of years before I worked as a teaching assistant, maintenance manager, stair maker, dock hand, forklift driver, shunt truck driver, dock foreman* (after 30 years of working I was fired for the first time after I grabbed a peer by the throat and threw him over a desk). I worked at two more jobs in the Transport Industry before moving to New Zealand.

I have only been here two years and I started off as a house painter. Then I sprayed gorse, pampas grass and ginger. I taught computer basics and finally have landed a job as Project Co-ordinator for the Te Uri o Tai Resource Centre here in Pawarenga. I actually job-share the position with a lovely girl named Max.

Perhaps everything I have learned takes me to this place, at this time. I'd like to think so anyway. I don't make much money - indeed I have to plow through reams of paper to secure the funding to keep paying myself. But, I can pretty much do what I want to do when I am not putting out the community newspaper, Te Karere. I am part social worker, part teacher, part communications man. I have big plans for this job, but you never know. I have to work and I will have to continue to work for the next 20 years or so.

Through all these jobs I figure I earned close to a Million dollars. I have about $50 dollars in my chequing account and $4.97 in my savings account. So what does working mean in the end?


Saturday, June 19, 2004

Duff and The Captain (behind) Warren and Ronnie (foreground) Posted by Hello

Towards Docus

Dear Fellow Travellers:

I miss a few things about being away from Canada. Besides family, I miss hot lazy afternoons at the Bamboo Club, thumbing through Now Magazine at the bar with a Corona and lime slice. There was always soft reggae music in the background and the staff were friendly. I miss their Thai Noodles. The Bamboo was my Margaritaville during good times and bad. The Club closed shortly after I moved to New Zealand. Tena koe katoa to the staff and times spent there.

But I miss me mates most of all.

There are turning points in everyone's life. In my life, the important punctuation points revolved around the people I have met and the friendships that have endured. Well, you've met the Captain. But the most significant friendship I have enjoyed is the one with Duff.

I met Duff shortly after beginning work at the City of Toronto in 1981. I was working for Public Works as a temp, manning an old PBX switchboard at "the Western Yard." This job was famous as the starting point for a lot of important bureaucrats. The incumbent, Dave Tait, was going back to university and I was hired to replace him. Dave was a fun, smart, gracious fella, who took care to brief me on how little I needed to do to get by. The desk we worked at held a number of items in it. Things like: Take out menus, a couple of half-done crosswords, a pocket novel, and a binder with the word "Blazer" written on the cover. I asked Dave what the binder was for.

He explained that it was the manual issued to all the players on the Blazer Softball team that played in the City Metro Softball League. This binder was a bible for what was required of a Blazer. It contained a philosophy and mission statement - there was a dress code - exercises one should do before a game - plays(such as "what each player should do on a bunt, or a line drive to centre field).

An example of the philosophy went something like this:

A Blazer always puts the team first.
A Blazer keeps his uniform tidy with the shirt always tucked in and hat on except when batting.
A Blazer always shows up early for practice.

Well, you get the message. I was keen to become a Blazer. These guys must be champions, I thought. Dave said I should call a guy named Rob Butterworth. Butterworth was my boss's counterpart in another yard of Public Works. I called him and mentioned I was interested in playing for the team but he interviewed me and expressed doubts as to whether I was good enough. Finally, he relented to say I could come out to a practice and if things worked out - that if I humbly took care of the gear and filled the water bottles, I might one day aspire to actually play for them. Fuck him, I thought.

My boss, Bernie German, suggested I talk to Paul Curtin, another Chief Clerk, if I wanted to play softball. Paul managed a rival team. I called Paul and he invited me to an indoor practice his team held at a local community centre. I arrived on the assigned night and met my new team called the Cowboys. We formed two lines opposite each other and started throwing the ball back and forth, finding the nice easy rythym and flow of a game of catch. Anyhow, Paul released a throw as the guy next to me said something. I glanced over and the ball caught me square on the chin, opening a nice little bleeder.

The fella who had diverted my attention was Duff and as his attempts to show concern over the stream of blood on my jersey, shoes, and floor, were made while he stifling laughter. The other guys were having a snigger or two as well. We all went for a beer afterward in Parkdale, I think it was the Parkdale Tavern. The place was famous for having a gentleman's entrance and holding fast to those ancient rules of use, much to the ire and venom of local lesbians and feminists.

(Traveller note: I have had an enduring affection for mindset at the time was that they presented an interesting challenge. Needless to say, this conduct always put me at odds with their political allies - the feminists.)

Through later years the Cowboys became the Coasters, but the core unit of the team remained the same. We were a team, and some of the fellas became close friends, and others tolerated my excentricities and mediocre play with a grain of salt. They were good players and we won some championships over the years. I was an enigmatic sort of player. I had good speed and stole the odd base. I banjoed the ball beyond the grasp of leaping infielders once in a while, or bunted with two strikes on. Defensively, I was a question mark. An easy pop fly to right field was always an iffy prospect. I sometimes dropped the ball because of the unnerving silence as both benches and the people in the stands held their collective breath. Duff always lobbied to keep me in the lineup, citing my speed and anything else he could think of. I would have been an MVP if we just played against the Blazers, though. Unfortunately, the Blazers folded soon after. Some say it was because their key players wanted to wear white spikes and white spikes were not in the manual.

So Duff began to invite me along to social events and he introduced me to other great people - people like the Captain, Warren, Ron. In time Duff and I became closer and remain friends to this day. I called him last week and he reminded me that the test of a good friendship was the ease with which they could just pick up where they left off despite a long absence. Thanks, pal. My life would have been much the less richer had I never met you.

The picture you see above was taken in a cabin somewhere near the French River. We fished some..(the Captain laid down strict rules about sobriety on the water) opting mostly to eat, drink, and tell stories. Duff is the guy top left, the Captain is beside him, bottom left is Warren and Ron is on the right...fellow travellers all.


Friday, June 11, 2004


Dear Fellow Travellers:

If I were single, I would want to have a retirement like my friend The Captain. He worked in government and was part of a transition team formed to integrate/reduce the size of his department. When the report from the team came out, The Captain volunteered himself as a redundant cog. The Department gave him a whack of money and a generous pension. The Captain now lives on his boat docked on Toronto Island and plans winter excursions to warmer climes come winter.

A handsome, fit, virile, man of middle years, The Captain has chocked up an impressive CV of female conquests and having worked his way through the North American demographic, has turned his sights and appetites towards Asia.

The Captain is splendid company. A raconteur with social grace. He is also a man's man - slow to anger, thoughtful in offering advice, and the sort of friend one can count on in a dangerous situation. A good sailor (hence: the moniker "Captain") and natural leader, I am happy to call him friend, and fellow traveller.

Thursday, June 10, 2004

From the balcony of our house in Ahipara Posted by Hello

Wednesday, June 09, 2004

Hopeless in Seattle

Dear Fellow Travellers:

Damn. I tried to access this blog to post another message that was incredibly witty, insightful, perhaps even life-changing...but I could not remember my user name, and then I could not remember my password...thank you Blogger Support for helping me through my fourth new password since I set up this blogspot this morning.

Thanks to Bruce Thorpe for putting me onto this site. Amazingly easy and fun to work with.

My mother-in-law asked me to clean up the disk of her files before giving her old laptop to my brother-in-law. It is an old Gateway laptop and I spent hours going through each folder to erase years of activity. My mother-in-law is one of the busiest people I have ever met. Currently, she is attending the Waitangi Tribunal where she is a member. Anyhow I had just deleted a heap of files when the computer crapped out. Every time I went to boot the disk up it crashed just at sign in.

Anyhow I came back to it in the morning and it turned out to be a loose wire in my power cord. There was enough power in the batteries to get it only so far.

Anyway, I am letting the world know about my blog tonight so stay tuned, my best mates: Duff and the Captain, as well as the Colonel will be posting their own items. I ask them to be frank without revealing too too much. Well, goodnight.

Dear Fellow Travellers:

And I don't mean "Fellow Travellers" in the political sense - I make no distinctions in this New World Order with respect to someone's orientation. Rather I use the term Fellow Travellers to address the people...

After all, we are all Fellow Travellers through this thing called life and all of us struggle to determine who we are and what we are here for.

Reading this blog may not provide you with any answers but in sharing my journey you will either be grateful for the life you have, or know you are not alone.