Thursday, August 27, 2009

One-Way Life

Cheers all!
     I have recently returned to the states, am in Reno for the next two days, and am heading up to hang with my family for a while at the beginning of the week. I have been continuously writing, updating and revising my stories and at this point the new stories that you haven't heard (including that which follows) totals 14 pages in word documents, and they are not yet half complete. Man writing is time consuming!
     Again I have broken up the stories into short and long form...I warn you to choose stories are growing. And again, if you haven't had a chance yet, check out some of my pictures at If you have missed any of the earlier stories, see below this email. I wish all the very best and I hope this email finds you well...

  • Ran into this girl Helena from England again (I’d met her when I was chillin with Flavia in Dunedin)
  • Arranged to meet Helena on the Train from Palmerston North to Hamilton on Saturday
  • Started Hitchhiking North
  • Caught a Ride with the former Chief Technology Officer of the New Zealand Navy
  • Started chatting with this 80-year-old guy in a mall named Stan
  • Went back to Stan’s house for a beer
  • Had a few beers with Stan, went bowling, had some more beers, ordered pizza, had a few more beers, passed out in Stan’s spare bedroom
  • Went to the largest classic car museum in New Zealand with Stan
  • Caught a ride to Palmerston North
  • Got in touch with Jenny Biss McMillan (was a foreign exchange student with my mom’s parents in California many years ago)
  • Caught the train with Helena
  • Met Jenny and the fam
  • Stuck around “Hamiltron” for a week for Megan’s and Kurt’s 21st Birthday Parties

....There is quite a bit more to come...

[LONG VERSION] ...WARNING! these stories are not perfectly edited...they are RAW!   :)
Oh Welly
From where I left off last time:
I wrote my last email in a smoke filled apartment room of Brandon (see last email for a bit about him). I’m not sure if I mentioned this last time, but being in that apartment was something like an episode of Friends; such an interesting mix of characters piled into studio-esk apartment setting with no real definition between rooms, rooms filled with unused and casually used furnature piled to the roof; room enough to move things aside for a band gig/practice; enough rooms for 10-15 people (I’m really not sure how many people there were there in actuality as I seemed to always be meeting a new roommate in the morning when I woke up on one of those random mattresses in the middle of the room [you know the one just below that 1970’s orange, brown, and off-white couch and behind the swing hanging from the 15-foot high concrete roof on your way to the multi-(all-be-it-bright)-colored bathroom (if you can call it a room – only walls) in the corner behind the washer, but not the dryer, if there was even a dryer].
[Okay, after an hour I think I’m just getting to where I left off writing – and just about to run out of battery power on my laptop]
So I was getting quite sick of morning after morning waking up in the smoky air of this apartment feeling like I had asthma… I couldn’t take it any more…good people, but I can’t do smoke. Earlier that week I had been sitting outside what looked like a church congregation just across the street from the apartment inside of a Café waiting for Gene to show up back at the apartment when I met this guys Matt. Matt came outside the church and asked if I would like to come in. In my fashion (as Megan has so defined) “I was like, Yeah, Okay.” I honestly don’t remember too much of the sermon, but I do know there was a youthful video about promoting a good culture of the kids in the city to hang out with fellow Christians away from drugs and inter-city trouble. But regardless Matt and I had been chatting it up in the back and I was invited to dinner afterward, where of course I played sous-chef and dishwasher. Conversations after the feast turned, as they tend to do in this environment, to beliefs, discussions of god, references to the bible, to my understanding of God as a Collective Conscious, and finally to my involvement as a Free Mason. I must have made an impression as I was invited to dinner a second night, movies a third night, and man’s bible study the fourth night (where I learned about stag day – I need to bring this back to the states). By the fifth night I had another place to stay with another Matt away from the smoke-filled apartment. I said my farewells to Gene, Brendon and the rest of the Flatmates…as has been my habit, it was time for change again.

We had had a party earlier in the week at Helena’s cousin’s flat after some drinks and food at Curly-Haired Jake’s place (one of Gene and Brendon’s good friends). We brought along bottles of nameless wine produced by the father of Jake’s flatemate (Interesting character…I don’t think gay, but definitely on the metro-sexual side – scarf wearing, mustache, tall and skinny, dark hair, furry hat, almost French accent, but deeper with a mild lisp, tight jeans and dark felt jacket – does that give you the picture?). Anyway, the point here is Helena did not expect to see me here, better yet ever again after Dunedin a few days earlier when we’d had salsa lessons together. Gene had decided that he wasn’t as interested in her as he thought he had been and decided that since he knew Helena was interested in me that he would pass the buck on (or in otherwords he decided to give Helena my number – I hadn’t given it to her). Well after a day or two I heard from Helena asking what Gene and I were up to… anyway, I ended up catching up with Helena again and after chillin at her Uncle’s place one night decided that I’d meet her in Palmerston North to catch a train up to Hamilton (again, I was like, Yeah, Okay, why not…right? – funny enough later on I found out that Hamilton is where Jenny Biss lives). From the morning when Helena’s cousin (guy) and I dropped her off at the bus station I had two nights to make it to Palmerston North and I wasn’t too particular about which way I ended up getting there. I walked to the end of town on the north end and after a text from Helena saying that she’d seen me along the side of the road, I caught a right with the former Chief Technology officer of the New Zealand Navy and his daughter.
[Okay 9 minutes battery power left if that…and I’m just getting to the stories]

Stan the Man
[Alright, well days and days later I am now living in a Flat with the most epic view of the Southern Alps, been hanging out with Olympic Gold Medalist Kelly Clark this week, went Heli-skiing yesterday, and have been sitting in the sun in the Jacuzzi here this morning, with again the most epic views…but nonetheless, back to the stories…]
There isn’t too much to tell of the ride with the CTO of the Navy other than some real interesting projects that he shared with me that I can’t really pass along…but needless to say an interesting ride. As I disremember their names at this point (I want to say Craig) I will say “they” so; they dropped me off right in the middle of town by the local food store (Countdown I believe it was there) with the subsequently attached mall (good idea having everything in one place I think; grocery store attached to the mall…bring home to the US?...maybe). So there I was alongside the road in Paraparumu (say Para-par-umu) next to this mall and after a dozen or so cars passed me by with thumb raised high, I decided I would go in for a little something to snack on. One of the rules of hitchhiking to know is there will always be someone else passing by and eventually, if you give it enough time (and you’re not in a sketchy place, wearing sketchy clothes with a gun slung over your shoulder), you’ll catch a ride in the direction you’re looking to go. If you’re looking for a few more of these rules I’ll just throw a shameless plug in here for “A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.”
So I went into the market looking for snack foods. One thing that Gene and I had given a go on our night cruising the streets of Christchurch was sun-dried tomatoes, cheese, and ham sandwiches…in much the same fashion I was looking to emulate the same tastes, though this time I believe I went for the ritz-like crackers, cheese, and sundried tomatoes variation. I was feeling quite snack-happy so beer nuts, carrots, celery, and a white powerade accompanied the feast. Just as I walked out of the store with my 27kg + slung over my back into the mall I had most recently noticed to be directly attached to the store, an older man was wondering in much the same fashion to the same 3-way intersection in the tall-halled mall that I was. Here was Stan, a seventy-some (if not eighty) year old man, wearing a dull colored sweater, collared shirt, and sneakers. Imagine Mr. Rogers…with a little bit of a hunch, comforting and mellow in looks, very alert, but with what I would call a basset-hound droopy face. Stan was curious and with my backpack of knick-knacks, skateboard, hammock, and rope attached to the outside, I was an obvious topic for conversation in a small town mall. The most obvious question being obviously a traveler, “So where are you from?” he asked with a smile and direct engagement. The answer had become fairly routine, “California,” being a better answer than Truckee, Reno, or Tahoe at first because they require local knowledge, more suitable than Nevada because the assumption is then Vegas (“Oh, so not Vegas? How close do you live to Vegas?” “Oh just about nine hours drive away”), and of course there is the natural stigma about California being as cool as the other side of the pillow (which of course it is, but you have to answer to the fact that no you are not from the OC or Hollywood or LA, or anywhere near LA…so maybe Nevada would be just as good?).
After addressing the most usual of questions that a traveler encounters, Stan determined I was of some interest and being alone in the course of his daily life offered if I would like to hang-out and chat over a cup of coffee or tea. Not being one to turn down an interesting opportunity to meet an intriguing “local” I accepted (it being early in the day and assuming that I would still be able to catch a ride further north if I so wished.
Stan lives in a quaint and simple brick house just up across the railroad track and back two blocks on the left. The layout is simple as well…Garage on the right side (North), Living and Dining room on the far left (South) with a hallway down the middle in between (North to South) and rooms on either side. At the small circular table adjacent to the kitchen, Stan asked if I would like “Coffee, tea, or…I have some beer if you’re keen.” Having left my bag in the “Boot” (Kiwi/British name for a cars trunk) and brought my snacks along (including the beer nuts) I took the obvious choice for a weekday afternoon, “How about a beer.” “Sure, why not,” says Stan.
Stan and I spent the next couple of hours speaking about everything from family, to politics, relationships, traveling, his trips to the United States and Europe, growing up, and experiences with Lady Folk to include questions like, “Come on Dan, tell me something you would only tell a total stranger” to which answers I will not repeat. Suffice to say Stan is a most interesting character with some unique (to say the least) life experiences, stories I will never forget, and private suggestions I am not sure if I will try. Maybe the most interesting of comments on the night (aside from discussions mentioned above of course) was Stan’s insistence on the fact that the “Outlawing of drunk driving has ruined it for everyone.” “I am a better driver when I’ve had a few drinks, and I’ve never had an accident”… whatever you say Stan. All together Stan, having lost his wife two years prior, was most appreciative of the company and all in all Stan and I had 13 beers, 200-odd peanuts, four games of bowling, and an extra-large BBQ pizza on the evening between us. Stan naturally offered the spare bedroom in his house as a place to crash for the night and a proper bed was graciously accepted. Early in the morning, after a spot of breakfast, Stan insisted on taking me on a tour through town and a walk through the largest antique and classic car museum in the southern Hemisphere (even with the number of years I have been to Hot August Nights, this is quite a display, I must say). Stan was happy to drop me at the north end of town so that I could continue in my journeys and left me with a number to get in touch with him should I pass back through. Thanks Stan! I have never had such interesting discussions, left field suggestions, and jaw-dropping narrations as with 80-year old Stan the Man.
[Well, with that said, I’m off to church…Lighthouse Church here in Wanaka, we hold it in Ardmore Café below Speight’s Ale House (Pride of the South!) on Sunday Nights…man, not complaining, but this is taking a while to write…I’m sorry for those who take the time to read it whenever I end up finishing writing about this chapter of my life… Cheers.]

All Aboard
[Just got back from a sustainable building workshop at the Library in Wanaka…listening to some Kora (Reggae/DUB/Drum n’ Bass/Hip Hop/Blues….Good stuff!!) in the dusk of the evening (6.46pm)…its now Tuesday the 11th…I’ve been dealing with roommate lease, bond, and transition issues most of the day following a very well received interview with McDougal & Co? Civil and Structural Engineers this morning…we’ll see if anything comes of it…but for now back to Paraparumu…right…]
I caught a ride out of town after all but a few minutes (okay actually about 20…the North Island is a little slower to catch rides on) with a couple of young men going back to Massey University for a rugby tournament in following day. There isn’t too much to discuss about this ride other than the textbooks I literally had to sit on top of in the back seat and floor. We stopped off at the Pak-n’-Save where they were getting some snacks for before their practice and preparing to load up on carbs the night before their games. I ended up walking into town, banging around on some Djembe’s (which I have been stoked on ever since the jam session in Dunedin) in Rock Shop and after being kicked out for having too much fun with the “expensive DJ equipment,” I got a pizza bagel, watched ducks procreate in the park, got kicked out of a parking garage for skateboarding far away from cars on the top level, cut the hair SS (short and sexy as Musick-man would say) again, took pictures with some numerical artwork, and skated over the catch the new Transformers 2 movie (Okay, Megan Foxx did nothing but run around and look provocative all movie, but she did it damn well…jus sayin’) and waste some time until the guys finished up with practice. Good guys all together, they offered me a place to stay later that night if I needed and gave me a number to text them at…I believe I still have Chris’ or Calum’s number somewhere… regardless they never got back to me.
At some point during the evening, somewhere between duck fornication and Megan Foxx’s airbrushing scene, I received a text from Jenny McMillan (formerly Biss). Jenny said that she had heard/seen (via one of my previous email story sessions on which my mother had copied her) that I was on the North Island and offered a place to stay if I was ever in Auckland, Hamilton, or Hawks Bay… funny enough I was about to catch a train with Helena in the morning from Palmerston North (where I was) to Hamilton (where Helena was getting off). A few texts later and I had it arranged for Jenny to pick me up at the Train Station in the morning! This plan-free life seems to be working out alright hunh? I guess the big guy upstairs (or maybe Grandma Foster – love and miss you Gummy-Bear Gran’ma) is looking after me.
Only problem is now, aside from the fact that I don’t know where the train station is, its quarter-til midnight, I don’t have a place to spend the night, its been raining on and off, and my 27kg pack is getting heavier by the minute; is that having not but popcorn since breakfast with Stan the Man, I am FRICKING HUNGRY! Skip the food…straight to unsettling a disgruntled troll they call the Backpacker Manager…she was not happy to be disturbed, rightfully so (and I am sorry for that to this day), but I don’t believe her beauty-sleep was doing her any good anyhow (Wow, I am going to hell for that one…Lord I apologize…that’s just not right). She didn’t take kindly to my comment that cops would not be happy with my sleeping in the gutters of the street, but after answering “Yes-ma’am” to every question and request (as is my habit) she found me a bed for the night. I was quick to bed, tough I may have slept better in the street with booming traffic being not compared to the guilt screaming through my head all night. I was sure to be up, Adam, and out in short order the following morning… though the morning troll did seem to be far kinder than that which lurks in the evening, I must admit.
Right…Time to catch a train to Hamilton (wherever that is). All I know is that I have never ridden a train more than a quarter-mile (honestly think about it…other than grandparents, who really rides trains in the US?) and I was stoked! After skate-wonder (with a massive pack on of course) through the streets and kickin’ it with some Maori Construction Workers managed to find the train station and even give a anxiously hasty, though friendly, guy directions to VTNZ in the process (what what!...yeah, nah…I had passed it earlier).
[Okay, this stupid fire detector is going off, let me see what it’s up to…. I’ll be right back]
[…No fire…just girls and long showers]
Helena showed up just a few minutes before we were to load up, slightly aloof, with consistently more luggage than the previous times I’d seen her. She of course forgot to get luggage tags (man, even I knew that I needed luggage tags, jeez…okay, okay, you’re right, I just heard it over the PA system… see guys are good at multi-tasking…hold that thought, just grabbing a drink…[gulp]…alright where was I?...oh right… Fine you win!) so I grabbed the tags for her being the single-tasking chivalrous gentleman I am. After chucking my bag which they classified as “CAUTION! HEAVY! – USE LEGS TO LIFT!” I was more amped than a Catholic kid on an Easter Sunday Egg Hunt to get this show on the road.
[Okay, got caught up with Roommates moving out, a couple Australian guys that Jodi brought back from the bar who have been there all day, and Hannah watching HouseBunny…Strike that…Once again, picking back up the pieces after a hiatus… Let’s just put it this way, we had an epic party for my flat-mate Kate, just answered the door to receive pieces back from the party (the usual blue iPod, red high-heels, and white 34C bra that were left lying around), I helped out with the Volkl FreeSki Open for the past few days, my basketball team is in the playoffs, it has been gorgeously sunny all week, and I, well I am catching a plane (or three) back to Reno/Tahoe…Whooop whoooooooooooop…gutted, but still…]
Helena and I quickly found our seats (and I say our because Helena had made sure the attendant knew we were to sit together) and headed immediately through the rest of the train to the viewing room in back. Bored and finding the conversation pieces with the recently-retied surrounding us all but lackluster within an hour, we returned to our seats and ensued …
…I am going to skips elements of the train ride for now…it was a train ride…you ride a train, you see sites, you have conversations…
We stopped in Okahuuna (spell check) and had some bombin pancakes and carotcake

Family Matters
…Jenny McMillan picked me up from the train station. I had no idea who to look for other than a woman around my mother’s age; but Jenny sure knew who I was. She welcomed me with a motherly familiarity to a complete stranger dressed in tattered clothes and mounted with a massive burden. After quick introductions and placing my bag in the usual boot (since it all but says “I am ominous and will scratch up the insides of your vehicle,”) we slid into the dark blue sedan that definitely said, “I mean business,” and were on our way to a whole week of family matters.
Meet the Brady Bunch:
Jenny – Well Grounded single mother of three who is cautiously analytical and well determined to more than just make it work.
Oliver – Quietly Astute 16-year-old school boy who is not afraid of work when it must be done, but rather enjoys his free time.
Ed – Peaceful Achiever who in his first year of University speaks more with action than words.
Kate – Innately Curious Sponge who cares earnestly for that which is close to her.
Meghan – Boisterously Determined and though discouraged at times keeps on pushing through being what I would call, “Uniquely You.”
Kurt – Compassionate Strength who is not afraid to put it all out there when it counts.
Alice – Gentle Polar Bear who enjoys the big laughs, big hugs, and true friends, but won’t be easily pushed around out of her will
Kiwi Dan – Casual Rip-Tide who appreciates the curveballs and loves to feel the flow as long as it’s in his direction.
American Dan – Loud and Outgoing in that all-so-American way, Bold (or borderline naive), Multi-Dimensional (maybe just two sided – Chillax-edly Introspective and Aggressively Determined)

The topics of the week (aside from planning for two unprecedented birthday parties) became, “How can we be as interesting to Dan as some of his stories so that when he writes about us it will be interesting?” The question lead to:
  • Aiding a bike rider hit by a car (no not Ben and Brenden – this was actually another one)
  • Kiwi-style 21st Birthday Parties – Genuine attempts to embarrass the celebrate in every possible way
  • Maori Families, Traditions, and Customs
  • Mince and Cheese Pie
  • Finding a Spaceship in a Redwood Forest
  • Above-ground graves
  • Mussel Pie
  • Cultural Gardens
  • Maori museum exhibits
  • Had the cheapest possible, but most bad-ass day in “Rotovegas”
  • Had Hokie-Poke Ice Cream and New Zealand Baked Goodies
The attempts (all of which I very much appreciated and rightfully were successes) to show me something that I had not seen or experienced were spectacular, but the most entertaining of all was not anything outside for the showing or pointing out. After a week with the Brady Bunch I have to say that the dynamics of the group made for constant 8+ way conversation. We ended the week with two epic birthday parties in “Hamiltron” for Megan’s and Kurt’s 21st's.

As I mentioned I am still in the progress of finishing up my stories and for the time being will be stopping them short here. If you haven't had a chance yet check out some of my pictures at I hope all is well wherever this email finds you. We will be in touch again real soon.

Daniel S. Herr