Now where do I even begin with this.
Put it this way: the biggest problem with Bryan Fuller’s Pushing Daisies wasn’t the early cancellation or even Lee Pace; it was that by setting the series inside a reputedly astonishing pie bakery, I left every single episode maddeningly hungry for pie. The episodes generally ended after closing time for most businesses in Toronto, though, so I’d inevitably spend the rest of the night in a state of advanced pie-seeking agitation that could not be fulfilled by a quick trip to Dominion to buy a Flakie Tart.
Now here’s Hannibal, and what’s really freaking me out is how hungry the show makes me.Read more
The evacuation of New York proceeded apace. I was in the city for something like a total of 42 hours, give or take. Some of it - not a lot of it - was spent sleeping. The promised thunderstorms never arrived, at least not in New York proper, although at the moment I turned the keys of the cube truck to start the 11.2 hour drive to Tweed, ON, the windshield first became speckled by rain.
The biggest shock of the whole thing was Adam, who hasn’t looked that good since before he discovered Guns n’ Roses. He’s living in Brooklyn, working in Brooklyn, and already seems like he’s been there for ten years. Sometimes you just find a place, and were from there all along.
I flew Porter for the first time, and read A General Theory of Love in Billy Bishop while waiting for Toronto’s thunderstorm to pass - I guess prop planes don’t do well in those - and after landing in Newark took the train in to Penn Station and got hit with All The New York All At Once. Which was good; it got that whole thing out of the way, and left most of Saturday for things less obvious. Though I never did get up the Empire State Building, which really should have been first order of business now that I think about it.
"How am I going to inject the cheese?" Happy 4th of July, America.
Lake Ferry - Our Mount Doom hike has been scuttled, because the Tongariro crossing is in permanent nastiness, weather-wise, for the next several days. This has left a rather gaping crater in our final week in New Zealand. We’ve ended up in Lake Ferry - a bleak stretch of sand out near the pinnacles, where the hotel (a lovely, barren motel overlooking the sand spit) could be the gathering place for anyone within twenty miles.
Have I mentioned the food here - the food in New Zealand is one hell of a best-kept secret. With exactly one exception, we have not failed to find UNBELIEVABLY good food in every restaurant we’ve visited, largely sourced from local products, and always plated with an aesthetic solvency that would blow the hair off half the Food Network hags. Last night at the hotel restaurant it was prawns and fettuccine tossed in tomato sauce with chorizo sausage and pine nuts, and it was - yet again - one of the better meals I’ve had in my life. No one talks about this place as the culinary centre of the world? Is it because they’re too busy talking about the propensity to jump off bridges?
Have I mentioned the drought? It’s stunningly dry here, and all the highway “fire hazard” signs (of which there are many) are set to “EXTREME.” But more than that, you see it as you move through the land - driving down here, across mile after mile after mile of sun-blasted scrub land, one begins to worry. Demetre was saying that the country is within a stone’s throw of water rationing if they don’t get a good downpour soon. (They should go to Tongariro.)
Wellington turned out to be a compellingly livable, friendly city, with a solid strategy for public art, and walkable streets that are - for whatever reason - replete with pregnant women, suggesting that they have lots of sex there and/or are as fertile as the average fruit fly. Wellington also puts Chicago’s quaint notions of itself as “the windy city” in striking perspective - especially down by the bay, that town has WIND, man. But no one seems too bothered about it. Friday morning the folks heading to work did not seem in any particular rush about it, and Friday night the streets exploded with nightlife to a degree that was more than a bit startling.
We went to the Weta Cave and then I did my Obi-Wan Kenobi straight-line walk to Stone Street Studio without any plan or navigational assistance. The highlight of the stay, though, was going to the Embassy Theatre for a midnight screening of The Hobbit in 48/3-D/Atmos, which would have been a treat in itself, but… THIS THEATRE. Quite legitimately the best movie theatre I’ve ever been to a movie in, with a stunning lobby, tony nighttime bar under the screen (which creates the rather surreal visual of walking into the lobby and seeing no ticket counter or concession stand, but rather a vulva-ish tunnel leading to a brilliantly designed room full of flappers drinking Old Fashioneds), an upstairs cafe and lounge area, and then - of course - a brilliant theatre, with a gargantuan screen, the best sound system I’ve ever heard, and wide leather armchairs bearing the names of the benefactors who sponsored them. (I sat in Liv Tyler’s.) If they played Return of the Jedi on Saturday mornings, it would be like all of my life’s ambitions had crashed together in one place. The Embassy is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and puts Wellington near the top of the list of places in New Zealand now vying for my permanent residence.
The big draw out where we are right now are the pinnacles, which served as the Paths of the Dead and must be seen to be believed. Made up of dissolving towers of compacted scree, the pinnacles seem like a winding labyrinth of crumbling castle turrets and proud, erect penises stabbing the darkening sky. (Also: if the metaphors in this entry any indication, I’ve spent too long absent the company of a woman.) We were in the pinnacles as the sun went down, and the encroaching chill and preternatural silence - broken only by our exhausting efforts to scramble over the voluminous piles of skull-like stones - was immense. I would love to return with a good set of speakers, and bounce the Raiders march off every corner of that large, natural echo chamber.
Kaikoura - Was this the day we all made silent promises to move down here? We were about halfway between Christchurch and Kaikoura, on the highway, passing through wide golden pasture lands and arriving at nearly the exact middle of nowhere, when we decided to stop at the next roadside restaurant for a snack… and just as randomly as that, found the freakin’ Secret Garden - an old train station in Domett, converted to a cafe, which served the most extraordinary food on its private back patio, wreathed in flowers and shrubs. Mainline Station, it’s called - get the chicken filo pie, if you’re in the area. Which you probably never would be, because this place is, again, in the middle of nowhere - an hour and a half in either direction to the nearest large town - and yet it’s possibly the most beautiful, perfectly realized cafe I’ve ever been to. The food is locally sourced, the chef comes out to talk to the customers, and in every direction is paradise.
I’m not much of a car guy, but I proceeded to have quite possibly the most fun I’ve had driving in my entire life, after leaving Mainline. The highway climbed up into some low mountains and snaked around corners and turns, and here we are in Chris, our crappy rental Subaru station wagon, and I’m driving on the wrong side of the road, mind you, and around EVERY corner - I swear to you - there is a very large truck charging towards us… and it’s AWESOME. We got in behind a tractor trailer who was driving even more batshit fast than we could and followed him up the mountain. I tried to execute a Tokyo Drift but I haven’t seen that movie. I did, however, come screaming around a hairpin sharp enough that my passengers weren’t sure we’d be able to pull out in time - just like Beggar’s Canyon back home. And when we were all just about losing our shit entirely from the sheer euphoric fun of it all, the mountains opened up - and there was the Pacific.
Kaikoura is like someone dropped a piece of Tahiti in a sheltered piece of the coast here on the South Island. Again, paradise. Main street is twelve stores long. The fish is superb. We went to a place called the Green Dolphin, all had the catch of the day, and for desert, there was fig salami with candied walnuts and goat cream cheese. I can hear the ocean now as the sun comes up, calling me home. Today we hike around the bay, eat more of the local food, and then jump on the ferry to the North Island. Further up and further in. I still don’t have my sword.
There was a point in the planning of this trip where we were only going to come to the South Island for a single day. Now I’d never leave, if I came here again.