Sunday, September 30, 2007

Tuesday, Part One: History and the Road

We had the two remaining eggs for breakfast, soft-boiled, because there were egg cups in the cupboard, and when life hands you egg cups, you might as well make soft-boiled eggs.

This was our day to leave the Bay of Islands, but the question remained as to in what direction. After the marathon of driving on Saturday, it was clear we didn't want to do the whole thing in one shot, so the plan was to get within a couple of hours from Auckland and stop for the night. The choices were either to go back the way we came or take the longer, potentially more scenic route by way of the west coast, to look at some big trees. Big trees seem to run in the family, so ultimately we decided on the latter, but not until after we had had ourselves some history.

The story of relations between New Zealand's white settlers and native Maori is a longish and I'm sure deeply complicated one, but on the surface it's pretty familiar. Discovery, distrust, trade, disease, settlement, attacks, treaties, racism, broken treaties, attempts at elimination of culture, re-examination of treaties, hasty reconstruction of history, bilingual signage, inclusive mural painting, etc. Anyway, the big-time treaty that got the ball rolling here was signed at a place across the harbor from Russell, so we stopped by to have a look.

The Watangi Treaty grounds are certainly very historic, as well as being scenic and culturally sensitive. We viewed them in the company of several school groups, including one where the girls' uniforms included ankle-length skirts and straw hats. They (the grounds, not the schoolgirls) also had the biggest camelia bush (tree?) I have ever seen. Seriously, that thing must have been thirty feet tall. I have pictures.

It is a surprisingly long way from one side of the little strip on top of New Zealand to the other, with very few people in between. We stopped for lunch at the only town we passed through that had more than one paved street, at a place that would have done Roadfood proud. It was a cafe tucked in the back of a home-supply and hardware store, with tables out in the garden section. And the food wasn't bad, as long as you had generous definitions of the components. For example, if you were willing to accept a bagel as a peice of white bread with a hole in the middle, and cream cheese as a kind of creamy herb spread, then the fact that the smoked salmon was delicious could just put the dish over the border into actually tasty.

We were down to about a quarter tank of gas when we stopped for lunch, but we didn't worry too much about it. The little car was getting great milage, and the gas stations here were inconveniently located on the other side of the road, so we'd just push on to the next ones. It was nothing to worry about. (This is what is known as foreshadowing. It isn't very sublte.)

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Lack of Updates Update

I know I'm falling behind a little bit here. More is coming soon, I promise.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Thoughts About Sheep

Once you have spent a certain amount of time* in New Zealand, inevitably you begin thinking about sheep**. For example, you might wonder how sheep could ever have come from being some kind of wild animal to what they are now. Horses, I can see it. Even cows, if you think about buffalo and stuff. But sheep? Animals so dumb they have to outsource their thinking to dogs? You never hear about them returning to the wild, like pigs. To the best of my knowledge, feral sheep have never posed a danger to agriculture and/or traffic. But they have to have come from somewhere, right? At some point in history, our ancestors must have encountered great herds of noble Ur-sheep out on the steppes of somewhere, captured, broken and tamed them, and gradually bred them to the point where they would think "freedom" was a four-letter word, if they could spell. Or count. I know this, I just find it hard to believe sometimes.

*Three days
**No, not like that. Sicko.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Monday: Wet Wet Wet

Okay, here's my problem: I don't do "happy" well. Sure, I enjoy, appreciate, even prefer it in my actual life, but for blogging purposes it's a complete washout. Give me a miserable, sweltering, painful day in the middle of Texas and I can whip off paragraphs of hilarious bitching with ease. But joy? Delight? Contentment? I've got nothing. So, sorry about this one, but bear with me here guys; something's bound to go wrong eventually.

Our plans for the day were simple: an all-day boat trip around the bay, hoping to see (and possibly even swiming with) dolphins, and getting a look at whatever else might be out there. There were only nine people on our boat, including us, giving everyone plenty of room to move around and avoid making eye contact with each other. The guides were very of what seems to be the architypal New Zealand male-- beefy, with a prediliction for facial hair and rough humor. But they knew their stuff about the local nature and history, even if said knowledge did seem to owe more to enthusiam and the aquisition of random factoids than formal study.

We set out on a route around the eastern side of the bay, but almost immediately a report came in from a fishing boat about bottlenose dolphins sighted to the west. So the captain altered course, and we were off to see some dolphins.

We caught up to them at one of the previously mentioned coves (See: Sunday), where they were feeding off the fish at an offshore reef. There were about eight in the pod, and since that included babies there would be no swimming with this group. (Which didn't disappoint me as much as it might have; the water, as I have mentioned, was a little cold.)

You know how the handlers at dolphin shows always say that the tricks they perform (the dolphins, not the handlers) are just extensions of things they do in the wild? Well, they are. These dolphins spouted, they flipped, they jumped out of the water, singly and in pairs, even mama and baby together once or twice. Sometimes they would swim right up to us, coming so close that we could examine the shallow scars on their backs, and then draft off the wake at the front of the boat, right under our noses. Occasionally they would vanish entirely, reappearing in some other part of the cove, and we would motor over to catch up. I don't think they minded, though. If one thing is clear to me, it's that dolphins love attention. They're like the MTV reality show "stars" of the animal kingdom, only smarter.

It is to my everlasting regret that I elected not to bring my good digital camera, out of some insane fear it would get wet or fall overboard or something. So here I was with only my underwater camera, a cheap disposable in a plastic case with a limited number of pictures. Which meant that a) I couldn't keep snapping away, trying to get that perfect shot of a dolphin mid-flight, b) the quality of the photos I did take wasn't going to be that great, and c) since I didn't finish the roll there's no telling when I am going to get them developed.

On the other hand, if the worst thing you can say about your day is that you didn't get the ideal shot of a leaping wild dolphin, then you should probably shut the hell up and stop complainin already.

Eventually, we had to leave the dolphins to the next boat and continue on our tour. We were headed out to the Hole in the Rock, a famous natural feature known the world over for being a rock with a hole in it. And as we made our way out there, the boat suddenly slowed down and one of the guides indicated a couple of seabirds bobbing in the water.

"If you look over to your left there," he said, in an accent I couldn't possibly reproduce in writing, "you can see a couple of fairy penguins."


I had been hoping for, even a little bit counting on, seeing dolphins, but I had no expectations of penguins. Sure. they didn't jump around or do tricks or anything, and they were kind of hard to see, what with the waves and them being the world's smallest variety of penguin and all. But still. Penguins!

The Hole in the Rock was exactly as advertised, and quite impressive, with the added bonus that we did not get smashed against the side of it on our way through.

We took a roundabout route back through the bay, learning a little history and ogling the private island retreats of the very rich along the way. We stopped for lunch (for us: water crackers, Laughing Cow cheese and some odd-tasting potato chips) on a beach in a cove. If it had been summer and I had spent the day baking the in the subtropical heat, I probably would have gone for my swimsuit at this point. But, seeing as how I had just gotten the blood back into my fingers after being blasted by the wind on the boat, I settled for wading instead, with occasional arm-waving returns to the beach to drive the seagulls away from the food.

And see? There I go again. Beautiful day, lovely secluded island beach, pretty shells, blah blah blah. Would it help if I said that we failed to locate another pod of dolphins that we could swim with, so we had to go look at the first one again? Or that the New Zealand fur seals looked like pretty much every other seals I've seen, in the sense of being lumps of brown fur on a rock? No? I didn't think so.

Around here, at this time of year, the sun sets promptly at six. We were back from our tour by then, so we went down to the beach (the little rocky one in front of the motel) to watch it. And, seriously, you couldn't paint a scene like that. A sunset over a beautiful island, with boats bobbing on a peaceful bay in the foreground? Please. You might as well throw in dogs playing poker and Elvis performing in front of a quaint stone cottage and some fruit and go for the sweep.

Our motel (the one by the beach) came with a tiny but well-supplied kitchen area in which Mom, in her supreme momness, whipped up spinach omletes for dinner. At which point it occurred to me: omletes+orange juice+hash browns=classic American breakfast; omletes+wine+salad=chic French dinner.
One of the things I love about travel is the way it expands your mind.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Sunday: Time and Tide(pools)

I have a great new idea for a book I'm going to write. It will be a big, glossy coffee table book about the cemetaries in the most beautiful places in the world. Naturally, I'm calling it A View To Die For. Now all I need it a publishing contract, a photographer, a travel budget and a year off work.

I came up with that one today at the Russell Public Cemetary, which sits on the crest of a hill about the town, overlooking the water on both sides. Russell is technically on a peninsula, but it's an island for most practical purposes. The best (and, as far as the rental car company is concerned, only) way to get here is via ferry, owing to New Zealand's somewhat casual approach to paving roads in its outlying regions. At the moment, it is the quintesscential off-season seaside town; partially open and largely empty, with lots of seafood restaurants, chintzy gift shops and old wooden buildings. It reminds me somewhat of a miniature Provincetown, only warmer and without the rainbow flags.

It was still raining this morning, but in a way that suggested it was thinking about giving it up. Mom visited the local church and I slept in, watched a reply of last nights Rugby World Cup game and took the laundry out of the dryer. After she got back, the rain having given it up for now, we went out and explored Russell's main drag (which took all of about three minutes) and then walked up over the hill to the beach on the other side.

The Bay of Islands gets its name from the fact that it is a bay with a lot of islands in it. Northern New Zealand has a complicated coastline, possibly due to the effects of ancient volcanic and/or seismic activity, or possibly just because. At any rate, the result is dozens, possibly hundreds of sheltered little half-moon coves, calm, clear water and lots of vacation properties. At the moment, though, most of those seemed to be vacant, so we had the place practically to ourselves.

The water, when we reached it, proved to be coldish. Not Northern California bone-chilling, toe-numbing, are-you-kidding-I'm-not-going-in-there freezing, but cold enough that we didn't mind not having worn our swimsuits. Instead, we did what my family always does when we go to the beach: we went tidepooling.

For a good portion of my life, I thought that poking around looking for interesting things in rock pools was simply what people did when they went to the beach, to the point that I remember a college beach trip to Malibu when I spotted a particularly pormising outcropping and was surprised that everyone else would rather sit around on their towels than see what was there. I have since learned better and been embarassed, but fortunately I have reached a point in my life when I can begin to get over myself and anyway, I like tidepooling.

The ones we found today weren't exactly world-class-- no starfish at all, and only really tiny anemones-- but we did spot a couple of chitons, some shrimp and a variety of multicolored periwinkles. And of course, my pants got wet; no matter how far you roll your pantlegs up when you go to the beach, they always get wet. I think it's one of those laws-of-nature things.

After we were done at the beach it was only mid-afternoon, which meant we could have spent the rest of the day exploring and further enriching our knowledge of New Zealand history and nature. But we didn't. Instead, we bought some wine on sale at the local market and sat around drinking it and reading trashy novels on the patio attached to our room. What can I say? There are some things you just have to do at the beach.

Home Again, Home Again

Jiggety, as they say, jig.
But as usual, a little behind on the updates. Blogging will continue until it stops.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Blogging Delay

I was going to do lots of updating today, since I'm back in Auckland getting ready to leave, but it has been very hard getting on the computer. (Long story. Short version: the Westin here really needs to reconsider their business center setup. If all goes well, I should be reporting again tomorrow, except that it will still be today. More International Date Line jokes to follow.

Saturday, Part Two: The Drive

We left the Hobbiton farm at around eleven-thirty in the morning and pointed ourselves north. (Well, actually, south for about ten miles, then west for a while back to Cambridge, but our general goal was North.)We were headed for the Bay of Islands, which is in the northernmost part of the North Island, but we didn't intend to try and make it all the way there today.

We stopped for gas just south of Auckland, after watching gas station signs for a while and realizing that it didn't matter where you bought it, gas was $1.63.9 a liter. Call me a whacked out cynical conspiracy theorist, but I'm suspecting some price fixing here.

In the interests of making good time, and because we were hungry, we picked up lunch at the same rest stop, at the Subway. I am happy to report that the antipodean Subway tuna salad sandwich is every bit as reliably mediocre as its North American ancestor. Which brings us to our fun conversational exchange of the day:
Girl making our sandwiches, after learning where we are from: "Oh, do they have Subways in America?"
Us: "Um, yes."

The freeway only extends about twenty miles each way out of Auckland (New Zealand's largest city, by the way), and never gets wider than three lanes. In Los Angeles, that would be considered a driveway. For the rest of its length, State Highway 1 is one lane each way, with occasional passing lanes to allow annoyed locals to get around timid and confused visitors.

It started raining around Whangarei; nothing serious, jut an on-and-off drizzle to keep things interesting. I mentioned before how we meant to stop somewhere along the way for the night and finish the trip tomorrow, but there's something about driving-- it takes so much less effort to keep going than it does to stop and start again, that you just keep pushing on through, to the next town and the next, until you're close enough that you might as well go along to the end, even if it's further than you really intended to go. So, on we went, through the rain and the gathering darkness, across on the car ferry and down a wet, unidentifiable road into Russell, the oldest town in New Zealand. And when, after several wrong turns and a certain amount of map consultation by your faithful navigator, we ended up at one of the motels recommended by Lonely Planet, it seemed like something of a miracle.

It was, as Mom figured out later, "like we drove from Santa Cruz to Fort Bragg on Highway 1". In the rain. On the wrong side of the road. In, basically, a riding mower with a roof. But, anyway, we were here.

Five Town Names Contributing to the Difficulty of Map Reading in New Zealand

1. Whakamara
2. Whakamaramara
3. Whakamaru
4. Whakapara
5. Ngamatapouri

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Saturday, Part One: Hobbiton to Modesto

Yesterday evening we managed, after much perilous negotiation of roundabouts, to ind ourselves lodging at a modest but pleasant B&B on the outskirts of Cambridge. The area was described by both of my guidebooks as an almost overwhelmingly charming Victorian horse-country town, but looked to me more like a modest outer suburb of, say, Baltimore, but with more cows. I have got to start approaching guidebooks with a bit more skepticism.

Our stay included a full New Zealand breakfast, which is a lot like a full English breakfast (fried eggs, fried meat, fried mushrooms, baked tomato) except that the bacon here is more like Canadian bacon, a round piece of lean with a strip of fat around the edges. Also, I found it ironic that, at an establishment with an actual cow in the front yard (it belongs to a neighbor), they would serve you margarine for your toast.

We started early, because we had a lot to do and a long way to go. Around noon yesterday it became clear that we were never going to make both our planned stops in one day, so we chose the caves and put off Hobbiton. Which turned out to have been a good choice, because where yesterday had been gray and rainy, today had turned up bright and clear and cloudless. Perfect weather for tramping around the most famous sheep pasture in New Zealand.

There are, of course, no hobbits in Hobbiton. There are no doors either, or gardens or walls or bridges or buildings. What there is are a number of hobbit holes set into a hillside, a tree, a pond and lots and lots of sheep. It's lambing season, and every ewe (there's about six thousand of them on the farm) had a lamb or two with her, some born as recently as yesterday. (Incidentally, I decided that any lamb I saw was being raised for its wool.)

Our guide led us on a thorough tour, pointing out of the places where things used to be with lots of descriptions like "just over by those two lambs there, you can see where the road was." But that's okay, because I hadn't come for what wasn't there. I came for the hobbit holes, which were.

They had been rebuilt after the original impermenant movie set peices had succumbed to the elements and the resident sheep, and whitewashed to stand out against the green hillside. They were small and round and, even at only a few feet deep, gave off exactly the air of cozy hominess that had always made this imaginary place so appealing. I took more photos than was strictly rational, including one, for no reason, of a hedge. I really have to go and rewatch those movies now.

Side note: Our driver on the shuttle out to the site, a bluff and middle aged Kiwi man, could not have been more pleased to hear that we were from California. He and his wife were actually headed there next week, to go on a four-day cruise to Ensenada, and then up to Modesto.

Oh, how nice, we said.
Modesto? we thought.

It turned out that he was a fan of American muscle cars, and he was picking up a couple of them there to ship back out of Oakland. We wished him luck and said we'd keep an eye out for him when we got back to the Bay Area.

Things They Charge You Extra For in New Zealand

Bread and butter
Bread and olive oil
Bread with your soup
Tartar sauce
Butter pats

Friday: What Actually Happened

Have you ever seen a cave full of glow worms? They make constellations of tiny green lights above you, like a kid's room with those glowing stars stuck to the ceiling, only cooler.

We started our day in Auckland, as possibly the first people ever to be picked up at the Westin by the bright green Jucy Budget Rentals van. Not that I was embarrassed, of course. I'm sure all those people were just impressed by our forethought and economy.

Speaking of economy, the car that the van delivered us to could probably have fit in the average SUV's wheel well, with a pickup that reminded me of some of those old Bug commercials. (Zero to Sixty. Eventually.) But that was not exactly a bad thing; the roads here are narrow and gas prices are high. But anyway, none of those were our main concerns when we took to the roads; we were focused entirely on looking right, keeping left and not dying, respectively. It was all rather stressful.

The Waitomo caves are not that far from Auckland, but they're not that close either. To get to them, one drives south for about two hours, through green and rolling hills, past large numbers of sheep and cows (and more sheep, and more cows) who look like they are never going to be able to eat all of that grass, but by God they're going to try. You can stop and eat a meat pie at a roadside cafe, but it isn't recommended.

Eventually, you will reach the turnoff for the caves and take it, as soon as you figure out which lane to turn in to. (It can be tricky.) This being a popular backpackers stop, you have to get past the various "adventure travel" offerings, (I have noticed that, as nice as these New Zealanders seem, their automatic response to tourists is to try and throw them off, out of, and down things. I wonder about that.) then you buy your ticket and follow your guide down into the caves.

I will admit, judging by the standard of Carlsbad, the Waitomo caves were not large, nor extensively decorated. But, unlike the dead landscape of New Mexico, these caves have an active river running through them, supporting a whole underground ecosystem; most notably, the glow worms.

I could tell you all about the glow worms, their dietary requirements and their life cycles, but I figure that's the sort of thing you could look up if you are interested (and you're not, I can tell). So I'll just boil it down to the essentials here: they're worms* and they glow. And when you're in a boat, moving silently along an underground river and there are bunches and bunches of them glowing over your head, it's pretty damn cool.

*not really

I'm Back!

Sort of. I'm using the computer at the bed and breakfast in Matakohe where we are staying, but it is out front in the darkened restaurant and it's hard to see what I'm typing. Also, bugs are attracted to the monitor. But I am here.

By the way, I'd really appreciate a few comments to let me know that someone is reading this, because I'm feeling kind of abandoned here. Let's say if I get less than three I might abandon this enterprise all together. (Duplicates are okay.)

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Friday Preview

We are striking out of Auckland today, into the countryside and away from the reliable internet access. So this may be the last you hear of me for a while, or it may not. We just don't know, do we? So I thought I'd take this opportunity to tell you approximately what I will be talking about when I do make it back to the world of connectivity:
The renting of the car. It is of the extreme budget type. Terrifying junker? Adorable buggy? The only thing we know is it's a stick shift, so I won't be driving. Which brings us to:
Mom driving on the wrong side of the road. This may create a certain amount of tension, all the way to:
The Waitomo Caves. Boats! Glow worms! Claustrophobia! Bad sandwiches! I've been looking forward to this one. But not as much as to:
The Hobbitton set at Matamata. The only Lord of the Rings type activity we're doing here. Lest this, even then, make you think of me as a big dork, allow me to direct your attention to the people I saw on a documentary on TV last night, who had built an entire subculture and several web pages around an extra who had about three seconds of screen time in the first film. He seemed to have a sense of humor about it.

Anyway, those may or may not be the sorts of things you will hear from me, when you hear from me. Watch this space.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Thursday: Largely Victorian

Started today much later and in a slightly worse mood, both due to lack of sleep catching up. Today was Touring Auckland day, which we initiated by taking the free loop bus all the way around its route, staying on and doing half of it again before getting off at the top of the hill. The free bus had an odiferous homeless guy sleeping in the back, as they tend to, but it was otherwise a nice service.

We got off at Allbert Park, a very formal, very British and very floral public park overlooking the city. Did a loop around there, then walked across the university to the Auckland Domain, a much larger and wilder open space, somewhat in the mold of Central Park, only with fewer people and a cricket field. It also had a duck pond which, since it's early spring here, was well stocked with adorable little fluffy ducklings. Keeping to the Victorian theme*, we visted the Winter Garden, a pair of flower-stocked hothouses flanking a courtyard and accompanied by a fernery (ferns being something of a feature of New Zealand's native flora).

I realize, as I write it, that all of this sounds mind-numbingly dull, but it was really quite nice.

Fortunately for the dullness-quotient of this post, we bypassed the Auckland Museum, with its extensive displays on Maori history and culture and the roles** played by New Zealanders in various wars, because it was such a nice day. Instead, we went on to a nearby historic house, occupied by a local headmaster back in the nineteenth century and currently curated by a friendly little old lady, who took us on a very thorough tour of the approximately four rooms, totally devoid of any items of interest, unless you are a huge fan of mediocre watercolors. But she was nice, and the house was historic, and what the heck, right?

*Note: We do not actually plan our days around themes, I just use them to try and make the posts somewhat more coherent.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wednesday: Far Better Than I Had Any Right to Expect

Arrived in Auckland at 4:45 am, local time, having had what amounted to almost a decent amount of sleep on the plane. Made it through immigration and customs, having assured the officials that we were not a threat to overstaying and agriculture, respectively, and arrived at the hotel by 6:30, bright-eyed and bushy tailed because that was 11:30 in real time. We are staying at the Westin, thanks to Mom's points, which is located kind of on the water at the edge of the business district. Our room looks directly into HP's Auckland office (we seem to be in a tech-heavy area, complete with Microsoft, HP, Sun and assorted telecom, kind of a "Silicon Quay"), so this afternoon we engaged in a little light industrial espionage, watching the employees chat, filch t-shirts and cut out by 4:30. We think they're in sales.

But, shockingly, learning about the lax work habits of antipodean tech workers was not the most exciting thing that happened today. That honor goes to the weather, which resolutely refused to live up to expectations and pour rain on us at any point, despite my not taking my raincoat. When day did finally break, it was bright and crystal-clear, if chilly, and it mostly stayed that way. So we decided to spend the day in Devonport, a charming suburb across the harbor with two extinct (I hope) volcanoes to climb and lots of lovely little Victorian-style houses to look at. We started with Second Breakfast (not counting the tea and cookies we had in the room) at a cafe where they left the big front doors open to let the air and the very bold local population of sparrows in, and served some positively excellent pastries. Then, in no particular order, we climbed both volcanoes, admired some WWII gun emplacements, walked on the beach, cut through a cemetery and a school yard, talked to a very vain Siamese cat, discovered that the numbering on one side of the street was completely independent of that on the other, except for the odd-even bit, and admired the early-spring floral displays, all before lunch. Which, yet again, was better than it had any business being.

The restaurant was recommended by the guidebook as having delicious wood-fired pizzas. The menu made it clear that they had leapt with enthusiasm onto the weird-topping bandwagon so, in the spirit of adventure, we ordered the smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill and caper pizza. Which I have had variations on before, but never with tomato sauce and mozzarella. Bizarre and misguided? Well, no. Delicious, actually. You see what I mean? (It also turned out that the lady sitting next to us was a gluten-intolerant tourist from South Carolina, but that doesn't really fit into my theme so I'm going to leave it out.)

I could go on, about the cool t-shirts from the designer seconds outlet, the fancy chocolate truffle with the candy rugby ball on top, the funky Japanese items at the $2(NZ) store, etc, but even I'm starting to get bored with all this positivity. But I do want to leave you with one reason this place is way nicer than it should be (I mean, aside from the free internet access at the hotel):
On our way back, we were trying to follow a different route than our random touristical wanderings away from the hotel. Naturally, we got lost. As we were standing on a corner, trying to determine if we had seen any of these buildings before, a woman popped out onto the patio of the restaurant above us.
"You look lost," she said. "Can I help you?"
"We're just trying to find our way back to the Westin, actually," we replied.
"Just go down this street, take a left and follow the water."
"Thank you!"
Now, I ask you, when does that happen? That doesn't happen.

I wonder if they have any biotech here?


There is no Tuesday.

Monday: Travel Notes

How is it that, with all the recent crackdowns, the FAA has not set a minimum penalty for whistling on international flights? (One suggestion: death.)

Quantas: Best in-flight entertainment ever. Slight point deduction for the fact that when I tried to watch the documentary on the Forbidden City, I got the movie "License to Wed", but that Robin Williams virus can be pernicious.

Quantas food: Not quite as good as Cathay Pacific's, but distinctly etable. Surprising, particularly when you consider that the British culinary tradition is to make everything taste like airplane food.

Post-dinner, approx. 11 pm
Flight Attendant: "Would you like some tea?"
Me: "Does it have caffine?"
FA (confused): "Doesn't tea always have caffine?"
Me (confused, somewhat embarassed): "Well, sometimes they make it without."
FA: "I'll check."
FA (returning): "Yes, it has caffine."
Me: "Okay, thank you, but not right now."

Today's travel epiphany: There isn't much point in having a window seat if you're flying over the Pacific at night.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Travel Update

Reporting in from Los Angeles International Airport, so named because it provides you with a visit to the third world without ever having to leave the country.

Off To New Zealand

I'm leaving for New Zealand in about five minutes. Further information to follow.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

And You Thought That Was Bad

Yesterday evening I was sitting at home, my windows open in honor of the late-summer warmth, when I heard a ghastly sound. A series of long, drawn-out scraping noises, like metal on metal, that went on for several minutes. A slow-motion car wreck, I wondered? A misguided attempt at do-it-yourself sewer repair? And then it hit me: One of the neighbor kids has taken up the violin.
God help us all.