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Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Weekend in Windy Wellington

As it turned out, Wellington was even windier than usual due to a freak summer storm which closed two international airports and left several small towns underwater. Good timing, David Bowie! We arrived on Friday when things were still relatively pleasant, and made it to the commuter suburb of Petone without incident. Our taxi driver was Ethiopian and he and Brent had a long discussion about various African countries. I felt like a big ignoramus, as is my wont. Petone reminded me a lot of Kingsland, with the added bonus of being close to the water. Lots of rapidly gentrifying villas and bungalows

and art deco blocks of shops. The beach is rather average, as New Zealand beaches go. Our motel was just across the road from the water, but we chose the worst weekend ever to stay beachfront!

On Saturday morning the sun was out and we caught the train to Wellington city - only a fifteen minute trip along the harbourside, which was very pleasant. Wellington knows how to treat their commuters. The trains and buses are so much more frequent and convenient than their Auckland counterparts! Of course, Auckland has so much more sprawl to deal with... anyway, we arrived at the big neoclassical train station and caught the city circuit bus to Cuba Street, where we split up and shopping was done by all. I bought a bomber jacket made of red Chinese-print silk which I feel may have been a giant fashion folly... but it was so cute!

Brent bought me a groovy Valentine's present (a handbag made out of a Saturday Night Fever OST album cover!) and wrote a very sweet card to go with it. Whoops. I was shown up for the selfish wife I truly am there, I think... I love you dearly, Brent. Really. I just forgot about Valentine's Day in all the excitement. I also got a three cream bakelite deco canisters with red lids. I love them deeply, and they are of the same design as a small one I found in Henderson a few months ago. Complete set! :) We met Lauren-wedding-guest Beatle-hater-but-pleasant Lawrence for coffee and musical babbling at Cafe Midnight Espresso, where he shared the mindboggling news that he spent $800 on an espresso machine - and it was marked down from $1200! I loves my coffee, but not *quite* that much. We returned, replete with hummus, to the motel to prepare for the reason we went to Wellington in the first place - Bowie!

It started raining in the afternoon and rained. And rained. And rained. The weather could not have been worse. To top things off, there was no word from Uncle Chris, who was meant to be arriving in Wellington for the concert by car. Naturally, in typical fashion, I assumed that he was dead and that our birthday gift to him - the David Bowie ticket - would be a source of neverending guilt to me as a result. I killed my uncle! Doom! (Yes, I am turning into my mother.) We got on the train filled with aging Bowie fans, still anxious about Chris. He rang my mobile phone on the train and I answered with 'oh my god! Are you dead?' to great hilarity from all on the carriage. He had been held up in terrible traffic and was at the motel, ready to catch the next train, to my relief. We also overheard - well, couldn't help overhearing - a loud conversation from a tipsy middle-aged bloke next to us. His crucial-to-the-evening's-entertainment statement was: 'my whole philosophy is I don't want to crash my car!' Cue many many MANY dorky historical-philosophical jokes for hours from Brent and I. 'As Hegel once theorised...' 'In the words of Heidegger...' 'To quote the neo-Platonists...' Ah, how we amuse ourselves.

Our arrival at the stadium was marred by, well, more rain. And wind. It was like winter instead of February! We walked quickly across the windswept unsheltered walkway into the stadium, bitching all the way, and I bought an obligatory Aladdin Sane sleeveless tshirt from the rape-me merchandise stand. Our seats were *great*, particularly for cheap ones. Of course, since we were in the roofless 'cake tin', the weather wasn't too accommodating, but some kind men in front of us lent us an umbrella. Naturally, we weren't prepared. Support was Brooke Fraser. Yawn, yawn. She may be the daughter of a legendary All Black, but she's dull beyond description. Someone clearly signed her in the hopes that she would be another Bic Runga. But she isn't any good. Charming, pretty, but naff songs. Typically, this was the last patch of semi-clear weather we would see for the evening.

The Bowie show was really terrific despite being wet to the bone and freezing to death. I actually managed to lose myself in the music most of the time, rather than thinking about my own hypothermia. I often find that when it's raining at an outdoor show, there's a kind of camaraderie between the band and the audience - everyone's getting wet but still trying to have fun - which tends to push enjoyment levels up, oddly enough. I think this happened here. In the interests of full disclosure, I really love Bowie and have more than a passing familiarity with his work, but I'm not as obsessive (yet) as I am about a few other artists. So Brent told me what a few of the more left-field choices were ('New Career in a New Town' from Low being one of them), usually within a few notes of the intro. He's good, that boy. The graphics behind the stage were really cool - a lot of blocks of vivid colour and repeated images. It's always best to be stylised, I think. There was also some really good dancing cartoon animation, used to great effect in 'I'm Afraid of Americans' (which I was so pleased he played, I *love* that song! Love it! And it rocked!). The entire setlist is here, for those of you who care. 'Life on Mars' and 'New Killer Star' were particularly good - in fact I've been singing 'New Killer Star' for days. Apparently Geeling Ng was in the front row, which must have been why he broke out 'China Girl'. (She's a New Zealander, you know.) His wondrous bassist sang Freddie Mercury's part in 'Under Pressure' *incredibly*. She's so terrific. David himself hit every note, was dressed fantastically, and still had the best hair in the world *after* getting drenched by the storm. How does he do that? Some people are just blessed with coolness, the Never Let Me Down era notwithstanding. (Oh, and the Labyrinth hairstyle. And the 'Dancing in the Street' duet with Jagger. Well, let's just forget that two-year period, shall we?) Songs I would have liked to hear: 'Young Americans' and 'Sorrow' and 'Station to Station'. Oh, how dearly I love 'Station to Station'. Swoon. Cute moment walking out of the stadium: a very drunken young man playing a completely incomprehensible 12 bar blues on a mouth organ. 'So I gargle gargle gargle... and I shamaleelee... and I SHABBALOO!...' Hee.

Sunday was bound to be anticlimactic, but as it turned out after a nice morning it was a *real* let-down. We went to the sweet little Lighthouse Cinema in Petone, which is equipped with big two-seater couches, to see Whale Rider. What a lovely, meditative film. I'm really glad that I didn't see it while I was in America, because I would have cried all the way through it like a big homesick dork just looking at the plants and the ocean and the white wooden houses. And Castle-Hughes really *was* excellent in the role. While we're in the midst of a race-baiting flare-up about the Treaty (why thank you, Don Brash, you *dickhead*), this should be compulsory viewing. But as soon as we got out into the horrible weather things went rapidly downhill. Couldn't find a decent meal (in Wellington? I know! I know! The city has more restaurants per capita than New York!), couldn't find a decent activity that didn't involve being buffeted by gale-force winds, couldn't really appreciate Te Papa because we were too tired... and then once our (delayed and terrifying!) flight took off from Wellington we were diverted to Christchurch, of all places, when Auckland airport was closed by the severe weather. We eventually got home at 4am! Still, it's an ill wind that blows nobody any good - the gates had blown off the airport's long-term parking lot, so we just drove right out and got our weekend's parking for free. Woo.


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