SONGS (FROM NOWISH)

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Photo from his label Secretly Canadian

SONGS:OHIA — Farewell Transmission

Jason Molina died a few weeks ago of alcohol-related organ failure. If you don’t feel anything when he sings, “Momma, here comes midnight with the dead moon in it’s jaws.” well, I feel sorry for you.

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This is my tip for the best song of 2013. TRUST ME. Sublime and such a chill to stroll to. And that riff with its hints and constant self-alludes before it just smacks you in the face — well, it just cuts me in half. And it employs the magically beautiful word “Lackadaisical” — in it’s adverbial state. Genius.
 
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THE INTELLIGENCE (Feat Kelly Stoltz) — (They Found Me on the Back of) The Galaxy
 
Fuck yeah — Rock n Shitdoggin Roll. The clip is a bit sexy-mesmerising too.
 
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TY SEGALL — Thank God for Sinners
 
Another shameless rocker. But sweet singing on top of the fuzz — which I fucking love. Plus the pumping bass at the end of the chorus. The clip makes skin look a bit creepy, but I am sure you can get over it.
 
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FASCINATOR — Mr Caterpiller 
 
Funny little jaunt with lots of shit happening. A massive amount of detail in this song! 
 
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JONATHAN WILSON — Desert Raven
 
A really lush song with a bunch of guitar riffs and orchestral shit and faraway vocals. You might call it Rock—Dreamy. But to me the song feels just like you were a bit parched and wandering around the desert wilderness just drunk on the isolation. Maybe.
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Auckland Pt 2

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SATURDAY

I am writing this in some dive pub just a few doors down from my hotel and I just saw someone on a fucking tall bike. Ugh. But this hasn’t taken too much shine after what has been, so far, not such a bad day.

I was intending to get the 9am ferry to Rangitoto Island, but wisely chose more sleep and a bit less of a panic to get ready for my trip to that quasi-remoteness. Rangitoto is the most recent of Auckland’s bazillion volcanos. Only 600 years ago it simply wasn’t here and the next day it was – although it took about 200 years to stop erupting and settle. It’s formation was witnessed by the Maori on the neighbouring island – itself an older volcanic outcrop. Can you imagine the drama of this event? I guess whatever was on TV was suddenly irrelevant.

I was going to do this walk on a weekday, but figured I should do it on a weekend cause there were more boat options home. The first thing I noticed as i got off the boat was all this dirty-looking “mud” everywhere. Except it wasn’t mud, and I got a bit of a shock when I got a bit curious and touched a bit of the stuff to find it was rock.

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And the more I walked it was just everywhere. Quite a bizarre landscape. Naturally I smashed up the mountain super-eager to get to the top. I think I only know a handful of people who are faster walkers than I. And walking in a brand new setting means I am extra-swift. Just before the summit is the big crater and then a bit more climbing brings you to an old wartime observation post.

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Littered all over the island are these traps for furry mammal-pests — New Zealand having no indigenous mammals. Even possums here wreak havoc on local fauna.

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After this selfie I couldn’t help but run down. That seemed easier than stomping down at a walk on such a steep gradient, anti-intuatively trying all the while to slow your progress. I took a side trip to a lava cave which ran for a good 50 metres. Quite spooky inside and dark!

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And then i was back at the jetty in time to have a snack and catch the next boat home.

The evening

After a one-hour nap, which was so necessary after such a big hike, I ventured off to Cassette 9 again, if only to ask for directions to somewhere else just as awesome. It worked out!

The bartender recognised me immediately, much to my embarrasment, cause I had no idea who he was. I told him to never mention Thursday night again, but slyly tried to pry out more details of my previous misadventures. Luckily I had not made too much of a fool out of myself and he was willing to guide me uptown to a place called the “wine cellar”.

I staggered up the road, up that stupid hill towards k road. I turned right and just looked around fr signs of interesting people amongst the detrious of homeless people, porn venues and shitty bars. I spied a woman in a beautiful red velvet dress and asked her where it was and she greeted me with an amazing smile and genuine enthusiasm to help. But perhaps that was because I was literally standing right in front of my destination, though up a flight of stairs.

Inside there was one of those “homemade” looking bars, but behind, through a concrete tunnel deathzone was a room with armchairs and people rockin out – albeit accoustically. It was pleasant sinking into the 2nd hand sofos, but I soon got bored as none of the performers grabbed me. And when the last guy did a final song, then an encore (which really didn’t garner much support), he then did a double encore. I stayed for that song, but then he started playing another. WTF? I had had enough by then.

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ImageA deodorant vending machine. OMG.

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ImageJust some typical customers at “Carl’s Jr”

ImageThis was my favourite looking pub — but inside it was a bit boring.

SUNDAY

Today was kiwi day. And by “kiwi” I mean that literally. I was off to see the bird everyone here is so enamoured with. I have never seen one in the flesh and with my new appreciation of birds this was something I just had to do while I was here.

Meanwhile I should note I am writing this in a bar that seems to have been a driveway once upon a time. Fittingly it is called “Imperial Lane”. It serves pretty good hot dogs – the only food here I have actually been impressed by. But in saying that, I haven’t really done any fine-dining. It’s hard to go to decent restaurants all by your lonesome. I am told you just need to bring a book, but something about that seems defeatist. Maybe that’s just me.

So getting back to today.

When I woke up it was raining outside which must have been fantastic for the locals as it seems NZ is in the grip of a drought ATM. Which is quite bizarre for a country renowned for it’s epic precipitation — being stuck in the middle of an ocean and having really tall peaks to trap all that weather.

Of course I only realised it was wet because there’s an outdoor camera hooked up to channel 12 on the hotel’s TV feed. And I was so disbelieving of the technology I drew the drapes and confirmed it for myself. Being in a hotel can often distort your understanding of the world outside.

So after that shower I expected the world to be chilly, but once outside all the rain had gone and it was another perfect day. Trudging across the Pondsby/Hernes Bay ridge I got to see some of the suburbs of Auckland on this trip. Nice art deco and big wooden houses with huge bay windows abounded. This was where I would live if I ever lived here.

I walked all the way – maybe 7 kilometres, up and down this crazily-hilly town in temperatures that wouldn’t be entirely unnatural at this time of year in Brisbane — which lies in an entirely different tropic at least 1000kms north. Along the way there, apart from the amazing houses, my path took me right up next to their beautiful harbour. But then I saw a house that must have just burnt down the night before with locals gawking and a fire investigation crew wandering around looking serious.

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And as I trudged on I accidentally approached the Zoo – a big fucking place it should be noted – from the point farthest from its entrance.

Eventually I got to Auckland Zoo and headed straight for the Kiwi bird enclosure which was no easy task. It should be said I am not a big fan of zoos, but I guess there’s some reasoning to the existance of these places. I think this is only the second zoo I have visited since I was 14. I imagine they function somehow protecting endaged stuff and possibly raise awareness in kids about conservation. Maybe.

But as I gushed at the amazing fauna everywhere I still wept at their captivity, their existence mostly for our amusement. Especially the birds. I made a point of queuing up “Free as a bird” in my playlist just to be stupidly poingent.

The Zoo was a maze but eventually I found them. You’d think they would make a bigger deal outta them, but what would I know?

It was really dark inside and the romance was almost lost as I immediately came so close to knocking over a small child, utterly invisible in these conditions. After ages hunting around the enclosure with eyes taking forever to acclimatize to the gloom, I enventually spotted one – there s/he was. A bit like a quieter version of our chooks, always poking at the leaf litter. After seeing my very first Kiwi in that perfect lighting for such romance, I tried to find a way out.

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Fred Ride

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When Dayne found out we were starting out at 8:30, he said, “That’s Fred time!”

Of course he was right and he when we passed a truck called “Fred’s” it was like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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You may have noticed all the photography in today’s post is in black and white (and cropped slightly more cinematically) because we are such Freds but also as a nod to the fact Dayne and Tom were rocking the Rapha hard.

On the way at Wacol we passed some kinda vehicle inspection blockade. They weren’t interested in us. Sigh. Image

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DSCN4420Welcome to Ipswich — burnouts on the side of the road!

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Just after Springfield Lakes Dayne suddenly disappeared. And Tom and I just waited and waited while Jesse went back to see what was happening. And it transpired that Dayne had got some claw-like bit of rubbish stuck in his tyre and when he pulled it out the tyre deflated. “Too much ‘passion'” was part of the problem Dayne said. “Too much passion.”

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Timer shot while we waited and below Dayne and Jesse return — Freds united!Image

Then I got busy once more snapping as many ultra-epic Rapha Fred-o-grams as I could.Image

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Then Dayne had a another Fred-attack and had to stop to check something on his bike. Meanwhile I made Tom and Jesse head up this dirt side-road so I could get another epic-shot.

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It was totally worth it!

Eventually we made it to Ipswich at around the 60k mark and stopped at some place that made this claim:

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But at the counter I baulked at the thought of a greasy Ipswich burger so I ordered an egg and lettuce sandwich — just like the Fred I am. But Tom dived right in — ordering the rather exotic “pineapple burger”. Then Dayne and Jesse bought their own and I was stuck with my soggy and rather pathetic-looking sandwich. But then Jesse ordered $6 worth of chips and when all our food came out it was a feast. $6 of chips in the ‘Switch is pretty damn impressive. They almost took up the entire table — tasted amazing too! Even though we ate quite heartily — we hardly made a dent in them.

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A break at Jindalee

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Auckland PT 1

DAY 1

My first night here was pretty shithouse. The backpackers I was booked into was basic at best and I got off at the wrong stop from the airport bus and had to trudge around for ages up and down epic hills just finding the place. Inside it was hot and noisy, and in a pretty bleak part of town. I wondered if I had made a terrible mistake. But for some bizarre reason that Tuesday night I arrived brought epic prices for hotels so I had to book a shitty place until it was safe to afford a decent place.

The only thing redeeming was the cutness of the TV and discovering Cassette 9 – a bar that looked cool, but almost too cool for me to venture upstairs. I walked a few more steps past, then said to myself – “harden up!” And then I was bounding up and chatted with the staff and had a fish-burger and immediatly broke my self-imposed fast on chips. Ugh. I am hopeless. I simply cannot help but eat chips whenever I am travelling.

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Cassette 9

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DAY 2

Dragging my bags down that stupid hill into town wasn’t as bad as I expected. But then I had to go uphill again seeing as my new digs were on the 18th floor of a semi-posh place. But I didn’t get to see the room just yet (as it was only just 10am). Leaving my bags with the conceiege I wandered uptown, and it really is “uptown” anywhere out of the CBD. This city is steep! Not quite like San Fransisco, but really, really close!

Up, and up and up I made it to Ponsonby where all the boutiquey shops lived. I stopped outside a Karen Walker store knowing this was a gimme if (or more acutely “when”) I decided to buy Dee a gift, but I felt too embarrassed to go inside. and a few ks later I was over at “k’road” which was a bit disappointing. All the vintage stores sucked, at least for cowboy shirts.

Next I was just feeling my way towards Mt Eden – one of those 50 volcanos here – and the tallest point nearest to the CBD. I only had to ask directions once which was a bit stupid cause the mountain stood out even more than a deadshit tourist like me.

And suddenly I was atop this beautifully bald mountain and now my yellowy dusty shoes matched, and also echoed the burnt bald grass all around, and I was enjoying a fantastic vista of everything and more about 50ks around. I tried to count those 49 other volcanoes and that was fun, but then it was time to head down.

My first taste of the new hotel room was grand. The TV was awesome and the shower was hot and there was a fridge for any takeaway booze. I rested for a bit, then had a stroll around albert park.

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A gooby out-of-focus shot of me by another touristImage

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It’s pretty spectacular up there.

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Then I found this epic record store with it’s own NZ Alternative section. I don’t think Australia has ever had one of these. Except maybe in Melbourne.

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Albert Park in twilight.

I then threw all my RULES out. I had wanted to save the Skytower for when I was getting bored. But I was so excited I decided to smash up. And cause it was only 300m from my hotel that wasn’t such a hard decision. Suddenly I was in the glass elevator and I wasn’t scared. And this is important cause I was petrified in Osaka the last time I travelled up a skyscraper whose elevator had a view.

I even stood comfortably on the glass floor with the 200 metre drop below.

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DAY 3

Today began with a tiny bit of fuzziness, perhaps explainable by excessive alcohol, which was compounded by the news (just as I managed to have the courage to leave the room)  from the housekeeping staff telling me the lifts were broken.

She explained I could take the stairs and so I took a deep breath and did as I was told even though it felt really weird in there. All the internal doors were locked (which I realised cause I periodically checked) meaning I was trapped here in this concrete monotonus elevated-hell until I got to the very bottom. And even then escape was not guaranteed.

A mild wave of claustraphobia ensued but I soldiered down all 18 floors trying not to panic. I counted each level getting steadily more at ease the closer to zero I got.

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When the stairs ran out I found myself at another locked door and hammering away at the handle with no effect meant my heart (and hungover brain) went a bit internally postal until I noticed a red button off to the side called “door release”. I didn’t care one bit if I set off a fire alarm, I just wanted out. The button worked and I was blissfully outside.

Ecxtatic to be free I headed upwards, (something I was getting entirely used to) towards the Auckland Domain.

The trees here are very spidery. Ancient-looking. Prehistoric even. They’re big and twisted with external root systems, but low, not much bigger than a two-story house.  Crucially – they look gobsmackingly amazing.

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Through the gardens and up and up another fucking steep hill I made it to the Museum – a big, gloriously white, and important-looking building with those massive marble, Roman columns. And it’s set on a hill with sunburnt fields of grass all around.

I needed a break from walking, so I went inside for a look. There was a 10 buck donation entry fee for tourists. I paid it and the dude at the counter, knowing I was from Australia, said – “are you sure?”

I like to pay my way. I don’t like being a cheapskate. That’s just the way I was brought up.

Although the war stuff was horribly emotional and the NZ wars were worse, the highlight was the volcano/earthquake simulation, but the war stuff was pretty emotional too. Particularly the NZ wars. Whoa! I wiki’d that later and was amazed at the difference the NZ civil wars had compared to ours which were more one-sided massacres rather than actual battles.

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Needing food quite desperately I followed signs to Parnell – another boutiquey place, originally the first settlement in Auckland. I only saw one old house but disappointingly it didn’t look much un like an old Queensland colonial.

Then back in the city I took a ferry to Devonport. I had no idea what to expect, but when I saw one of those big volcano hills, with all its baldness approaching, I was excited. I smashed up that grassy-temple following some Japanese tourists. My heart was exploding with the effort but my shoes just fit so snuggly into that browny-red earth which had a billion shoe-holds to conveniently follow.

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ImageInside the old WW2 fort

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That’s Rangitoto in the background there, which will become important laterImage

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When night arrived I went back to Cassette 9 knowing Chicks on Speed were playing. I fully intended on getting an early night, but once chatting with the bar guys and the DJ who was playing awesome tunes, I plonked $20 bucks on the table and committed myself to a big night. COS! a band I had last listened to almost a decade ago. I was a bit reticent and I wondered if I had the stamina to suffer a late night (jet-lag included) all by myself.

But I stepped up and found some souls to talk to including the bar staff and the DJ who was playing some petty sweet tunes. And then after all three bands, of which COS fucking rocked! I then got to do some dancing to awesome music – which is sadly quite a novelty back at home.

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