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June 1, 2002

With the Kiwis


 


The following are note to my friends from a lecture tour to Wellington, New Zealand in the summer of 2002.


No, no, no, I am not working for the CIA. But if they paid enough it might make sense.

Wellington weather: cold (by my standards, probably 40-50 F), rainy, dark, heavy clouds. Just like being in rainy England.

Just went out for a good cup of Cappuccino and a snack. Warm cozy tea room where I've had lunch twice. These people make a damn good cup of coffee. I'll have to find out why.

Still couldn't get the server here to work right. Had to resort dialing Bakersfield and doing it that way.

While exploring I found the "light bulb man". Saw a small sign pointing down an alley and couldn't resist. They're still people like him, not many it's true, and fewer every day. His shop, if it can be called that, was stacked floor to ceiling with bulbs (lamps) of every conceivable size, shape, and luminosity. Stacked might be an exaggeration. While I was talking to him one "pile" collapsed spewing little boxes of lamps onto the floor. Eery. Struck up a conversation on compact fluorescents and the outsourcing of manufacturing to China. Apparently they closed the last lamp plant in Australia just last week. New Zealand's last plant closed 18 months ago. When they closed they had so many orders they couldn't fill them all. He just shook his head. Didn't make any sense. Of course lots of things don't make any sense.

At at the restaurant in the funky hotel I was at last night. Had a Hawkes Bay red wine that was remarkably good. I think I'll have some more tonight if I don't get sidetracked experimenting with Kiwi beer. There's a 2nd floor pub not far from here called the Malt House. The last time we were here I was sorely dissappointed by it's limited selection. Mostly imported beers. Hardly any craft beers and the main beer here, Steinlager, is not much more than a Heiniken in a Kiwi bottle. I'll give em another chance.

Got Nancy a little gift I am sure she'll love: Possumdown socks made in New Zealand. Yep, you heard right, Possumdown. Made out of merino wool and fur from brush-tailed possums. The first new natural fiber product in 100 years--or so they claim. We'd heard about this stuff on our last trip. One of the couples we staid with hunted possums for the trade. He had possum skins on the floor of our room and since houses here are not heated like they are in the states, those possums felt mighty good on a cold morning. Yessiree, possums are scourge in Kiwiland and ravaging the habitat of the native kiwi so here's it's considered ecologically correct to kill possums and use them for something productive--like possumdown.

Saw a political march today for stiffer sentencing "no tolerance" was the theme. I'd heard the bag pipes and couldn't resist finding the source. It was raining but the pipers were piping and the marchers marching all holding up crosses to symbolize someone murdered here. (I guess no Jews or moslems have been killed, at least I didn't see any signs.) Though no party was identified, the theme is the same as that of the conservative National party that's trying to unseat the Labor-Green coalition. Apparently National has accused the Labor party of being "soft" on crime. They must take their cues from the Tories in Britain or the Republicans in the states.

They have a "black power" movement here as well. Young, disenfranchised Maori are forming gangs. One gang killed a white kid north of Wellington. They're a cross between biker gangs and the black panthers of the 60s.


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