Day 8 & 9: Viva la Wellington!
Day 8: ‘Te Papa’s meaning is less removed from ‘Yo Mama’ than you might think
After a surprise morning delivery of crayfish (what we would call “lobsters”), our kind hosts took us around the peninsula, past one of Sir Peter Jackson’s two houses, for a proper Breakfast in Scorching Bay at a table overlooking the beach. It was civilized indeed!
After some fun in the sand, and the requisite photos of marine life made visible by the low tide, we headed up the coast to see this sculpture of a Tree Troll by Stacy’s friend Kim, who we hope to meet tomorrow.
From there a drive into town to see about getting my phone to work (for me, not for greedy international carriers that is). It wasn’t easy, but at last I have an iPhone that is “unlocked” and able to accept local sim cards instead of the highway robbery of “roaming” charges. What works here in NZ won’t work in AU or elsewhere, but an unlocked phone means that I should be well prepared for November’s trip to the UK.
The Wellington city government decided to offer WETA ace Greg Broadmore an empty storefront on Cuba Street for his traveling Dr. Grordbort exhibit (next stop – Dubai). We caught both the exhibit (oh to have the resources of Weta to build MY frames!) and it’s prime mover (such a lovely man considering the vasty Venusian carnage he wreaks!) at a serendipitously timed signing, and hope we might see him once more before we pull up stakes and head for the South Island!
But we could only stay long enough to get a book signed (and drawn in) for Keith Baker – we had to meet my old pal (and US Diplomat stationed in Wellington) Marie D’Amour. On the way to the TePapa museum we passed a shallow harbor filled with boaters and, below them, gliding rays. We passed happy tourists and delighted locals who were making full use of the steps and ladders to dive into the cool waters below – focusing (rather painfully I imagined) on creating as much splash for the onlookers as possible.
But we hurried on to the museum where we found Marie and her visiting (and also diplomatically-minded) niece. After a brief but splendid chat, we paid our fees and entered the complexities of the Gamemaster exhibit. The early games (Defender, Galaga, et al.) were ones that I well remembered. The batch in the middle of the chronology were things I’d witnessed only in passing (Black and White, DDR, Zeldas, et al.). But there was a crop at the end I’d never even heard of. I was charmed with Blueberry Garden, but did not play it long before moving on to a 3-game portfolio of That Game Company – Flow, Flower and finally Journey. I played 1 creature and 2 flowers fully through in the first games. But like someone who comes to Vegas and sits down at a slot machine that’s been played unsuccessfully for days, I moved on to a partly completed Journey and played it entirely to its conclusion (in the very nick of time! The exhibit closed as I watched the end credits roll).
I found it beautifully ways I’d never imagined a game managing – almost as if Nicholas Roerich and Mary Blair had decided to work on a sequel to Myst with Carl Jung… Hearing that some friends in Portland own it, I may try to study its elegant minimalism a little more when I get home – it’s a treasure. As great as I found the exhibit, I admit to some chagrin at missing the rest of the museum entirely. Perhaps we’ll manage another, more history-minded, visit tomorrow. We briefly peeked into the Embassy Theatre (whose Gandalf is larger even than the Roxy’s) and established to my satisfaction that Wellington has the best theaters with fancy dining than anyplace I’ve ever been. Even if they need a proper Wizard to defend them….
Upon returning home, we we’re treated to those aliens from District 9… well, to their crayfish cousins anyway. Eric dealt with the Lobsters while Stacy whipped up home-made chili. After a beautiful sunset we headed back to Gandalf (who is literally bigger here in Wellington than Queen Victoria) and feasted on the Pavlova (the Kiwis’ national dessert made primarily of kiwi fruit, cream, and meringue) at nearby Strawberry Fare.
Day 9: The Hospitality of Mr. Baggins
The day began slowly, but we finally sprang into motion and headed back to the Te Papa Museum after noon. As I was considering the steep parking fees a fellow with a German accent approached and asked if I’d paid to park. I told him I was considering it, and he handed me his parking pass. Apparently the 3 hours he’d used were as expensive as the all-day pass, so he paid for the full day, and why didn’t I just take his?
We tasted the local salmon at the Sunday Market and admired the many locals basking in the summer sun. The museum was every bit as interesting and wonderful as we’d suspected. Some of the films were silly and poorly conceived (the gimmicky black animated bit on the giant squid) and others wonderful (base jumpers and photographers and sheep farmers and paleo-kiwis talking about what the land means to them).But wherever one travels in New Zealand, the spirit of JRR Tolkien is never far behind – The Hobbit’s 3 trolls were visiting the museum too – dangerous dudes to be around!
After a brief return to base, Stacy and I headed off to see a hidden Dragon – happily there were no Crouching Tigers about. Stacy’s sculptor pal Kim Beaton (who made the wood troll we saw yesterday) has created a wonderfully friendly dragon who is sheltering a fox and a hedgehog. And she made it out of a new high-tech concrete that requires no metal framework or other materials. At the end of our visit I got to help restore the dragons protective cover, but now that he’s properly cured, this will be his last day under protective wrapping.
Later that evening (and a remarkably hot one it was for Wellington), Stacy and Eric hosted a swell gathering of artists – Daniel Falconer arrived with Paul Tobin, Greg popped in, and I had a fine chat with Kim about art and t-shirt design. Tim-Tams and baseball-themed beer accompanied conversation about fireworks, large insects, world travel and the Hobbit. Conversation about the game Journey was later echoed in a surprising way as we watched a firelit Chinese lantern ascend, rising slow and straight into a remarkably calm clear twilight. Another followed some 20 minutes later. Gorgeous.
What a wonderful visit and send-off. We loved Wellington.
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