Te Anau - a quiet, flat community in the middle of nowhere, whose purpose quite completely eludes me. It seems to be a way station for people headed elsewhere, but the elsewheres in question (Milford, Doubtful Sound, Keppler Track) are all a good distance further away. In the meantime here’s Te Anau, a town made up entirely of restaurants. Our demographic at the YHA hostel is downright odd - residents from ages 18 to 80. The six-bedroom dorm next to ours was occupied by a half dozen septuagenarian Kiwis and Aussies, like some outback reunion of the Royal Fusiliers.
Replacing Katie as the unwanted fourth member of our 3-man band is Lars (not his real name, because no one’s bothered to ask his real name), who is sharing our 6-bed dorm with us and is the living embodiment of a kind of consensus shared nightmare of every man, woman, and child who has ever stayed in any hostel, anywhere on the earth. Lars - who passed out on his bunk at 8 pm the night we arrived and proceeded to snore like a locomotive gone off the rails for the entirety of the next ten hours (or at least, whenever he wasn’t farting) refuses to make eye contact with anyone and should come with a medic alert bracelet forbidding him from sharing accommodations with any other humans. He doesn’t seem to do anything besides lay on his bed playing on his laptop, and snore. “I am Lars! I check into hostel and lie on bed! This is vacation for me!”
A little further down the road from Te Anau is Manapouri, which has a small beach - stumbled upon by accident. This beach was, from the moment I saw it, the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, whose description I shall not utter here. A bit further down the road than that was the rocky beach behind the Possum Lodge (!), which is - by our rough Google mapping - the furthest from home I’ve ever been, and likely to remain so, unless I eventually get in that trip to Australia I craved in my youth. Though if I ever do come this far and farther again, there are other things from home I’d bring with me.
I was at world’s end on 3/7.
If Te Anau has one thing to recommend it, it is the food truck down by the water called Mainly Seafood, manned by a kindly, bald Kiwi who has ruined me for fish and chips for the rest of my life. I have never, ever, EVER had a piece of fish like the blue cod this man sold me; it redefined the art form to such an extent that I will not order fish and chips from anyone else I ever encounter. Lightly battered, requiring neither salt nor sauce, and falling apart in juicy morsels with every single bite. The fish and chips of the gods.
I’ve been the furthest I’ve ever been. From here, I am - torturously slowly - following the cookie crumbs home.
That’s a line from the not-very-good Star Trek: Insurrection, spoken with irony by Captain Picard as he and his crew-mates take on yet another political errand in the midst of a big intergalactic war. The words rattle around in my head quite a lot, and not just from general Next Gen overload. (Although - on that subject - yeah. Overload.) It’s a trivial line from a trivial film, but it expresses the soul of a thing to me nevertheless. It’s certainly a meta-commentary on the changes to a television franchise as it moved into feature films. More importantly, it’s a great whalloping reminder that, yeah - sometimes life moves on so fast that you don’t recognize how completely your place in it has changed, until you stop to check yourself. And so that line resonates, and has for most of my thirties. We were explorers. Time went by. Now, if we look, we can scarcely recognize ourselves.
This was meant to be about blogging. Did you know I invented blogging? Sure did, back in ‘97, on a site called “Geocities” that you Gen-Y pups have only heard of in legend and mythology. And then I moved it over to the Main Blog; and then I gave up blogging, and then I found Tumblr, and then I got into Tumblr to get back into blogging. Except, now it’s not anything like the same. I write about Star Trek a whole lot nowadays (which brings me full circle to that Geocities blog, in a not-unworthy dollop of irony), and I have been known to pour my personal journal into the public space anytime I visit a film festival, particularly if it’s a film festival in a far away land. But the personal stuff - the kind of stuff that used to have my close circle of friends, back in the early days of “the internet” when there was nary a Twitter or a Foursquare, alternately fascinated and appalled by the sorts of things I was willing to put “out there,” i.e. my whole life, within reason, on a daily basis - that stuff was gone.
Part of me thinks maybe Tumblr killed the blogging urge forever, and not just for me; for the Internet. Back when the front page of Tederick.com was a regular newsfeed of whatever I was thinking and doing at the time, when the most frequent question I received from the agog introverts in my life (myself included) was “why are you putting this out there?” - a question you’d think I’d be able to answer after fifteen fucking years - the whole process of blogging was simultaneously more singular and more arcane. Now I literally know one person without any form of social media presence - one. I can obviously still write occasional blog posts on public-facing topics like whether a new Star Wars movie is a good thing. But the real genesis of the blogging, as I used to do it, was the more elliptical stuff - the mood in the room, the smell in the air - which Tumblr just does better anyway. There are things I can’t say in ten thousand online words, but an animated gif of Thor and Loki happy-dancing down the rainbow bridge can express in its entirety. Tumblr is the visual imagination of a whole sector of the human race, writ terrifyingly large.
But I still feel like something is back there, missing. Something in the basement, I guess - the awareness that I used to do a thing, and that a part of me (in my mind) still does, but I never write or post anything like I used to, because we used to be explorers, and now we aren’t. And then a few terrifying reminders surfaced in a matter of weeks, from people who used to tell me they admired my blogging, and are now putting things into the sphere that I couldn’t match on my best day - because they’re doing the work, and the work is the work is the work. And it’s like - fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck. Sometimes, guys. Sometimes the world just hands you your ass - and you know it’s one of those when it’s as beautiful as it is painful, and you’re looking out over the precipice of the thing and you think to yourself - am I jumping, or not? Am I falling? Have I hit the water? And do I have enough air to get to the surface, way, way up there?
And with those being the sensations, I can’t help thinking to myself - what happened? Is it just that it’s more socially acceptable for me to write florid prose about the experience of going to a film festival than it is to write florid prose about the experience of walking through this life? Or is it just that I chickened out? My actual journal, which averages about twenty pages a month, was a whopping fifty for the month of January alone, which suggests - albeit under admittedly unique circumstances - that the words are in there. They don’t make an enormous amount of sense, but surely, at some point, they need to start coming back out.
Off to New Zealand for 3 weeks. I’ll post to Tederick.com when I can.
"Words Win Wars" - Murray Gold, Doctor Who Series 5 OST
Quite a good day.