Wednesday, November 28, 2007

The grass may be greener but the streets are meaner

Maybe I've been reading too much of Colleen McCullough's Masters of Rome series, but spring is now ingrained as the opening of Campaign Season. It's that time of year when anything is possible. Let the die fly high.

The festival circuit posters are out. I've already committed to going to the RaggaMuffin gig, come Hell or Helen. Tempted by Kiwiburn, now WOMAD's gone all commercial like Big Day Out. Also pondering requesting a spot in the Speakers Tent at Parihaka. No, not yet. The timing is all wrong. Maybe after a spell at Toastmasters. Yeah, that'll do it. We can't all be teachers or lawyers, used to speaking in public. Gotta kill that "don't fuck it up" mantra thing that keeps happening.

Well, it's about time to settle into a theme I suppose. How about a recap of the previous week? It's been good stuff.

Last Monday, attending the NZ Drug Foundation's AGM. They got the boring crap out of the way pronto, and featured a debate between some university teams debating "All Drugs Should Be Legalised." Charles Chauvel was moderating. Nice to see him continue turning up in all the right places. The audience decided that the negative team proved the most convincing, including me. Great fun for seeing what the lie of the land is. Tricky, but not insurmountable. I seriously rate the choice of chocolate cake served afterwards. It gave a whole new perspective to the definition of drug. Damn that anandamide!!

On Wednesday, attended the march to parliament on the Electoral Finance Bill. Got many beeps walking into town on the way there for my double-sided placard. On one side, "People, not PR and Pledge Card" (I ran out of room for the plural). On the other, it said "Greens! WTF u doing?" Both sides were subscripted with "This electoral advertisement was authorised by me."For the record, the sign did not say "fuck."

I had no idea of the huge drama that a chaotic event like an upturned plane on a runway would cause, even when Stephen Franks kept going on about it when I bumped into him on the way to Civic Square. Here he was, telling me the march was turning to custard, and here's me poking and prodding for completely different information. Inappropriate conversation is my forte. Get me on a roll and I can put both feet in my mouth with ease. It's why I'm gun-shy of influential people.

At Civic Square, I strike up awkward conversation with the grouplets of fellow marchers, managing to alienate one Act supporter with anti-Gary Mallet comments (Honestly, bring back Catherine Judd). Oh, the march has started, thank Dagg. Leisurely stroll down Lambton Quay, a street built for marching down (although the University-Terrace-Beehive route is still the best).

Young Labour turn up wearing John Key masks. I recognise a few of them straight off. Good on them for adding to the limited theatrics. Their antics spark a response in the marchers, who drown out the gatecrashers through necessity. Bump into some guy marching along with an effigy of Winston Peters. Arrive at parliament and a TradeMe of speakers ensues. Fair go to DPF for giving it a go on the mike. Good on Jeanette Fitzsimons for fronting up. You have my respect but still not my vote.

Thursday, lunch with Rick Giles at the Backbencher. Rick is an Almost Disappeared Person and the guy with the Winston effigy. Small world, small march. Off to Wellington Airport to catch a Pacific Blue flight to Auckland. Omfg, they've brought US customs to NZ's laissez-faire air travel. The paranoiacs have taken Joe Bennett far too seriously.

Metal detectors and x-ray machines? Thank Dagg I wasn't wearing my usual belt, the one that gets me spreadeagled at parliament every time. Hasn't anyone told the control freaks that security is an illusion? The best one can hope for is to minimise one's reasons to become a target. Security is therefore an oxymoron.

American security traditions, ripened for decades by the McNamara agenda, have finally burst forth on state departments around the globe. Tasers are the non-lethal stock option du jour. Revenue is soaring! Tasers are the de rigeur non-lethal shock option for cops. During the NZ taser trial, the thing was used 19 times. According to the logic used to justify its use, 19 cop lives were saved due to the taser. What's the Death on the Job rate for cops? Surely it's not 19 a year? N-n-n-n-19? No way.

Taxes may not be rising, inflation may be low, but the price of safety just keeps going up. What's the going rate for a late model taser? How about those goddamned metal detectors and x-ray machines back at the airport terminal purgatory? For my return trip to Auckland, $7.14. Now I paid McDonalds Airways a hundred and something bucks for my flights. $7.14 is a big bite of their margin.

If $7.14 is the price of ensuring that Tame Iti hasn't trained some ninja pilots to take over a 747 and fly it into the Beehive, so be it. However, since this stunt happening is so unbelievably improbable, I strongly resent paying a tuppenny fuck for being treated worse than a towelhead. $7.14 would have bought me a red wine to enjoy on my flight, instead of being heavied by the rubber-glove brigade. Future flying will now be subject to a thirty percent increase in security costs. $9.32 and rising. When will someone say no? I'll second them.

I hadn't been to Auckland since selling up the Shoebox in Wellesley St West back in '04. It was well-timed, before the leaky building clusterfuck really took hold of the body corporates and just before the CBD was so utterly saturated with apartments. Landing at Auckland airport was a doddle. I had forgotten how truly horrible the traffic was.

One hiccupped rendezvous later and we're heading out west, to the Pope of Dope's official residence in the Waitakere Ranges. Two wood pigeons parked up in the bush greet us on arrival. The view is astounding. It's all there, Rangitoto, Sky City (albeit as a prick on the horizon). It's the Auckland I never knew. Wait! What's that sound in the distance? Is it... public transport railway?

Friday day is prep day. Lots of mouths to feed this weekend. Head into town for the 4:20 near Albert Park. Maryjane, the Cannabus is there, up and running after only three years from its inception. After a significant smoke, a crowd heads out on the bus into Auckland Friday night gridlock. I get out while the bus is idling near the Viaduct, heading around the waterfront and across to the North Shore on the ferry.

Head on round to RRB's house, a cigarette's length from the jetty. From there, it's off to the Northcote Tavern, a throwback to the glorious bar and bistro days of my childhood. It's Friday night and there's fuck all people there, for shame. Not trendy enough, eh. RRB and the Northcote's chef share a walking bus connection, spinning a yarn in the garden bar. She cooks up a nice scotch fillet and chips too.

Saturday morning, head out to Prince's Wharf to attend the NORML annual conference on board Te Aroha. It's a good meeting, and my paper on what the latest version of the Electoral Finance Bill means for NORML is well received. Now I'm committed to writing to the Electoral Commission to seek guidance on NORML's response to the EFB.

The AGM is wrapped up quickly, as the party-goers are about to board. It's time for cruising the harbour, relaxation, irie tunes, loads of kai, and the "Show Your Grow" competition (a spin-off from the annual Cannabis Cup). The co-host has provided beer and steaks, as well as other festive amenities. I grab a Steinie and crank up the barbie. Not 200 yards away, a police launch wanders past. It'll pass by discreetly another three or five times during the evening, as bass booms and clouds of smoke diffuse in our wake.

After I've backlogged the buffet for the 70 people on board, I head up to the Auckland's heads in the bowls. After years of tolerating Wellington's bush weed, it was a real pleasure to get to see some fine Auckland skunk again. Aucklanders won't touch bush. It's skunk or nothing. About a dozen entries and there's three outstanding ones. One bud, big as your fist, sits there begging to be scratched and sniffed. I feel like Neil Miller at the Beer Festival, or Jules at Toast Martinborough.

New Zealand is a nation for Epicureans. Our Rieslings are up there with Germany. While our Cab/Merlots have a way to go before we top the Ozzies (Penfold's Grange, Mmmmmm. Sorry Mr Brajkovich!), the Pinots are getting there. Three cheers for Tuatara Pale Ale! Dagg bless that Manuka Honey! Woohoo for Kapiti Foods and Puhoi too! And the lamb... The lamb lies down on Ohakune potato mash and mint jus. New Zealanders are the best growers and seeders of cannabis in the world. We outrank Marrakesh, Amsterdam and Nepal in quality. This is no hashish, dudes. This is the real fluffy thing. Smells sweetish-minty too.

The winner ends up being G. There were many mentions on the night of "hitting the G spot". It's a Northern Lights/White Pearl cross. The dude has been growing hard out for three years and this fine young horticulturalist deserved the win.

The partygoers depart, and the boat straddles the harbour for the night. Sunday is sloth day. Everyone's glad that the conference was done and dusted on Saturday, because it's the Mother of All Stone-overs on Sunday. The clouds burn off early in the day, and the harbour is ablaze in sun.
Farewells in the afternoon. Head off on foot from Prince's Wharf to debrief myself at my bro's apartment in Parnell. The heat coming off the bitumen makes it a stinking hot walk. There's cold beers in the fridge, although Randy is in Tauranga dealing with Family Matters. Refresh, reboot, and up to The Bog, before ferreting back for a kip.

Monday, it's back to reality. Back to Wellington. Normal blogging will resume whenever the fuck.