Thursday, September 26, 2013

A stormy trip to Auckland

Hooray! It's over! The America's Cup regatta came to an end in this morning's 19th race of the best-of-17 series, with the limitless resources of Oracle winning out. It's remarkable how many Kiwis got so emotionally (and irrationally) involved in it all. It wasn't NZ v USA or anything close to that, it was a battle between two mega-corporations. I kept hearing "we've been penalised" and "we've got no chance now", and even the mayor of San Francisco said "we won!". You can just about get away with "we" when a national team like the All Blacks are playing, but how can you get that attached to a brand? Today I got a long and very emotive text from Brendan (a friend from Auckland) who normally shows no interest in sport at all. He was "totally disgusted", calling Oracle's comeback a "conspiracy" and saying, in all caps, "MONEY TALKS". I totally agree with his last point. I only learnt yesterday that Larry Ellison (Mr Oracle) is the world's fifth-richest man. As for Dean Barker, he took defeat extremely well I thought. I hope the NZ government cut their funding for the next America's Cup challenge to zero. Imagine if that money was spent on mental health services instead.

The piece in the Press on the America's Cup by the ever-brilliant Joe Bennett sums it all up rather nicely. Two more of Bennett's columns caught my eye. First there was this one about personalised plates. It's weird, people pay hundreds of dollars to get hard-to-decipher vowel-free combinations because they provide an ego-boost. Not so long ago I was following a car with a plate that read (or so I thought) NOTLGB. Hmmm, what's LGB? Is that, like, gay? So you're straight? As I got closer I noticed it wasn't a B on the end, it was an 8. NOTLG8. Huh? I sat right behind him until it finally clicked. "No tailgate". But I had to get so damn close to figure that out. Then there's this piece which touches on a subject dear to my heart, all that nauseating marketing speak (I'm guilty sometimes too: I talk about "issues" too much). As he says, words matter. He's obviously a voracious reader; that's one reason why he writes so well.

Well I left Wellington eventually on Friday night. We had a downpour and a rare thunderstorm; one of the planes on the ground was struck by lightning. There were a lot of cancellations as a result, and it was complete chaos in the terminal building. The departure boards were worse than useless (they only showed a handful of flights and gave dodgy information about those) and the staff were very unhelpful. I spoke to one woman who told me all flights were suspended for the evening and I'd need to queue up to get put on a plane the next day. I had my phone on me and, as a rare treat, I'd bought an internet data package. According to my phone, that woman was telling porkies and I was good to go from gate 11. After a 90-minute delay we did indeed take off from gate 11. The plane was packed - people had been rebooked on my flight from earlier (cancelled) flights. The flight was fine. My phone was a godsend: I knew exactly which bus to get on and where, and I arrived at the motel a few minutes after midnight.

On Saturday I met up with Richard in Newmarket before the autism group. I hadn't seen him in over a year. I still prefer the set-up of the Auckland group to the way they run it here in Wellington. There you're able to get up, walk about, and have conversations in twos and threes. Richard will try and talk to just about everybody, which is great. As I chatted to some new people (there was one woman I really liked) I bemoaned the fact that I wouldn't see them for at least six months, possibly longer, possibly ever. There's a bigger spread of ages at the Auckland group: in Wellington they're mostly twenty-somethings.

A big thunderstorm came through on Saturday night (I could have been luckier with the weather). The rain was torrential and I was kept awake for hours. Between two and four, the fork lightning got further away, then closer again. In the morning I popped over to the Shore to meet up with Mandy, who is now five months pregnant. So that gave us an obvious topic of conversation. She was also studying for yet another exam. I don't know how she still manages it (she reckoned the prospect of a new baby gave her extra motivation). Her partner holds a senior position at the same company; in her (serious) words he gets paid far too much. They bought an apartment in Birkdale, a stone's throw from the cold, damp flat I lived in for a year. Its value has already shot up in the short time they've owned the place. Mandy asked if I would ever consider having a family. Never say never, I said. I think I'd be OK at the dad bit up to the age of five, but not much use after that.

On Monday I caught up with the ex-facilitator of the Wellington autism group.  We had lunch at the swanky new section of Britomart. She's pretty happy with her lot now - her husband's got a good job while hers (at a school) is rewarding and almost free of stress. It's all very different to their situation when they lived in Wellington. Later I met Richard again, at his new flat in Onehunga. He showed me his drawings, mostly of fantastical figures, then played me some songs on the guitar. It must be nice to have his level of creativity. Things are looking up for Richard - he's far happier with his current flatting situation than some of his previous arrangements.

I didn't get to see Bazza while I was up there, or (despite my best efforts) Brendan, which isn't his real name, or either of his two previous real names. The wet and windy weather made Tuesday a bit of a write-off. I couldn't really go anywhere or do anything before my flight except read my book. I was pessimistic about my flight but it took off with only a short delay. Our approach and landing was a bit bumpy but unremarkable by Wellington standards. So I was back to work yesterday, and I surprised myself (and probably my boss too) by how on the ball I was.

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