Sunday, November 16, 2008

All's Well That Ends Wellington

It's been quite awhile since I've done an update, and a lot has happened. First off, I moved to Wellington. It turns out that Wellington is perhaps one of the coolest cities in the world. It's very artsy and Bohemian, not to mention easy to get around. I live in an area called Newtown. Newtown is one of the more multi-cultural neighborhoods in the city. It's thus far been able to resist the ugly spread of total gentrification, and one can still walk through the main streets in town and come in contact with pilgrims from all over the world: African women haggling over prices at outdoor vegetable markets, elderly Chinese running five-and-dime stores and the spicy-sweet smell of Indian and Malaysian food.

I've fallen in with a tremendous group of friends here, easily some of the greatest people I've ever known. They're hilarious, energetic, welcoming and forgiving (these days, an important trait for those who befriend me). It was with this magnificent little crew that I made the pilgrimage to Toast Martinborough, a yearly wine festival held in the rich vineyards of the Wairarapa region about an hour outside of Wellington.

The weather could not have been better that day, as summer finally seemed to win its battle with the cold weather that's reared its head since I've been here. Five of us crammed in the car (one of whom was our designated driver. We're responsible people), and journeyed over the mountains to enjoy the beautiful sun and some tasty wine.

At the outset of Toast, it seems a very sophisticated event with people calmly enjoying fine wines and pleasant conversation. It does not stay that way. More than 10,000 people attended the event. More than 14,500 bottles of wine were consumed. You do the math.

Toast Martinborough: Beginning of the Day

Toast Martinborough: End of the Day

A couple tips if you ever plan to attend this event. First, make sure to eat in the morning. It doesn't matter whether or not you're hungry. Eat. Second, drink a lot of water, and do so consistently throughout the day. Third, pace yourself. You have a whole day to drink wine. There's no reason to put away an entire bottle in the first two hours you're there.

By following these tips, you assure yourself a lovely and relaxing day you'll remember for years to come. If you don't follow these few simple steps, you end up comatose in the back of your friend's Volkswagen while your other mates try to force feed you a mince pie, which you angrily reject, and then when they give you water to drink you pour it all over yourself, then you lean lecherously on one of your female friends, and apologize to her just in case you get "kissy" which you really don't even have the energy to do, you just lean there, haphazardly shoving foul-tasting potato chips into your mouth and missing entirely most of the time, then wake up a couple hours later with a splitting headache, cotton mouth and the realization that all your friends are enjoying the vineyard while you suffer DTs in the back of a hot car, and then when you finally muster the strength to stumble out of the car, you realize the entire scene has degenerated into a drunken orgy that's more sad than amusing and paramedics are hauling some guy out on a stretcher while you fight a pounding headache and watch helplessly as one of your friends is felt up by a guy in a safari costume. This is, of course, an entirely hypothetical situation.

Another tip. If one of your friends seems more than a little inebriated, don't let him call one of his female flatmates. Just don't do it.

Other than that, Toast Martinborough is a lovely event for the whole family. If you're ever in New Zealand, don't miss it!

Friday, October 10, 2008


When I find myself on the south end of my last paycheck, I go into a kind of crazed conservation mode, like a hibernating animal preparing for winter. As such, I usually head to a supermarket and buy as much foul, prepackaged swill as I can for $20. It's like a competition of sorts. See how many meals I can get out of $20. I've eaten for three weeks off of a haul like that.

It was this mindset that found me deep-frying frozen chicken nuggets for lunch today. A cursory examination of the package revealed that the nuggets were 37 percent chicken. This stirred in me a kind of awe-struck respect for the manufacturer. In today's world of quality control and consumer watchdog groups, I find it comforting to know that food purveyors can still label a product with the name of an animal that only appears for a third of the meal.

I fried the nuggets up in olive oil out of some misguided health-consciousness. Consuming food like this and then worrying about the oil you fry it in is like fighting a wildfire with a squirt gun. After patting the nuggets dry and waiting an appropriate time for them to cool, I bit into one with fear and trepidation. The "meat" contained in it was a grayish color, and had a watery, spongy feel to it. The flavor had a vague kinship with chicken, as though a chicken may have one time wandered past the factory where the nuggets were being made. If this is only one-third chicken, I wondered, what is the rest? Examining the bag again, I came across this cryptic ingredient: "Filler." Filler? Why, that could be anything! Newsprint, past-their-prime circus animals or vagrants! There was a grim excitement in the thought that I could be eating any manner of horrifying garbage.

Faced with a powerful hunger, I cooked up ten of the ugly buggers. I was able to eat five before I was forced to call poison control. As I waited for the ambulance to arrive, I sealed the remaining nuggets in a sandwich bag. I can't wait to have them for dinner.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Western Civilization Has Officially Fallen

I found this picture online.

Oh, man, it hurts just to look at this. Yet, there's a brutish poetry to how wrong on every level this crudely drawn sign is. Whoever made it could not have slaughtered the English language any more thoroughly had they taken a hatchet to an Oxford Dictionary.