In the cold, cold night

Aotearoa has been a bit frigid these days. We're currently under a spell of 'southerlies' ever since the big storm that nearly blew our roof off. Speaking of the roof, the insurance appraiser came by two days after the storm and said that they would cover the cost of replacing our roof!!! If that is in fact the case, which I'm still a bit dubious about, then what a blessing in disguise that would be.

Back to our current climate phenomenon. Southerlies are freezing cold winds that come roaring directly from Antarctica. Antarctica being our neighbor to the south which is known as the coldest, windiest, driest, most inhospitable place on Earth. A southerly reminds me of that biting cold that I remember from growing up on the east coast. It's still nowhere near the bitter, bitter cold of a February or March day in Philadelphia. Nevertheless, it's been highly unpleasant to be outside for any extended period of time.

Another fun factoid: southerlies can and do happen at anytime of year, including summertime.

How can we stand it, you say? Thanks to our blessed new house we have central heating. Central heating, by god! To most, that will sound as if I'm ecstatic that we have running water. Or that we have electricity. Sadly here in New Zealand central heating is an utterly foreign concept. To wit, a kiwi friend, who shall remain anonymous, once said to me "My parents have central heat. They have a heater in their lounge which is right in the center of their house" ...okay...hmmm...yeah...see...how do I explain this?

There was a newspaper article [download an OCR version of the article] not too long ago that covered this dirty kiwi secret. Here are some of the more damning quotes:

One flat averaged just two degrees celsius [35F] in winter, which means its occupants would have been warmer sleeping in their fridge.
In most Western countries, the average inside temperature is kept at about 20 degrees celsius. Here, the average bedroom temperature in winter is about 14C - two degrees below the World Health Organisation (WHO) minimum temperature of 16C.
"When the southerly goes through here it feels as cold as it did in the middle of winter in Canada."
"Heating really is a luxury in New Zealand, which seems wrong to me. Buying three bottles of wine is a luxury; having a warm house shouldn't be."

That last quote is the line that I've always gotten from kiwis about why there is no heating in New Zealand homes: It's a luxury. A Range Rover is a luxury, people. A plasma screen TV is a luxury. A fur sink is a luxury. Heat is a basic necessity of life.

However, I'm now beginning to understand. Our gas bill from last month was $500. Now that is a luxury! But it is WORTH it!!!! I absolutely cannot tolerate being freezing cold in my own home. We have friends here who are fully bundled up in their houses: hats, scarves, gloves, winter jackets, and long johns. Sitting in their living room and they're still shivering. Why do that to yourself? That is the definition of misery. If heating was common here then it wouldn't be so expensive.

No matter how little money we have I will not sacrifice being warm. It's such a happy feeling walking in the door, coming in from the cold to an embracing warmth. Before we moved in to this house, we would come in from the cold and it would feel like we'd left all the windows and doors open.

The good news is that the days are getting longer. The sun is hovering over our house for longer stretches, covering more of our garden. It's going to be so, so nice to have the sun back, to have sunny warm days and nights.

September 6, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink | Comments (3) | TrackBack

Is this #3?!?

Update: Our roof nearly blew off today. At the moment it's being held together with cinder blocks.

Blizzard knocks planes, trains, ferries out of action
18 August 2004

UPDATED REPORT
Severe storms, with winds gusting up to 180kph, continued to batter the lower North Island today bringing widespread misery to thousands of commuters.

Wellington and the Wairarapa bore the brunt of the wild weather with no planes, trains, or ferries operating out of the capital.

Cars also struggled in coastal areas as waves dumped seaweed and debris on roads. Further north heavy snow closed scores of roads cutting off some rural areas.

Slips closed the Paraparaumu and Johnsonville Transmetro lines into the city and flights and ferries out of the capital were cancelled.

The Wairarapa is also under siege with flood warnings in place on several rivers.

Sergeant Andre Kowalczyk of the police central communications centre said police and emergency services had been flat out answering calls overnight.

Many central and lower North Island roads had closed because of snow or slips and State Highway 1 just north of Porirua was down to one lane after a tree fell across it.

State Highway 2 between Wellington and the Hutt Valley was open but was dangerous as massive waves threatened the coast hugging road: "it's open but it's extreme," he said.

In Hutt suburb Eastbourne waves had dumped debris on the main road.

"Please keep your speed down, keep your lights on and take care," he asked motorists.

MetService forecaster Marie Grey said overnight Wellington was battered by winds up to nearly 180kph. She said part of Wellington airport had lost its roof – wind speeds recorded at the airport had averaged 87kph with gusts up to 115kph.

In Mt Kaukau [we live on Mt Kaukau] near the city the average was 133kph gusting up to 178kph. The average speed for wind on the Cook Strait was 130kph gusting up to 160kph.

The Wairarapa was being hit with winds average speeds of 100kph gusting up to 135kph and Wanganui was being hit with 85kph wind. Kaikoura was hit with winds of 80kph gusting up to 105kph.

Ms Grey said the winds were likely to continue with the same intensity for most of today not easing until the evening.

A "decent amount" of rain had fallen with 60mm recorded for the Wairarapa, 130mm for Orongorongo range, 110mm for the Wainui catchment – in the Hutt Valley.

Transit regional manager Brian Hassell told National Radio getting into Wellington was "pretty grim" for some commuters.

He said the Rimutaka Hill Rd was closed because of slips and high winds. There was some surface flooding in the Hutt Valley but roads were open.

"Waves are splashing on to the road as you come along to Ngauranga" – on SH2 between the Hutt and Wellington.

He said there had been several slips but these had been cleared.

"But really people still need to take great care and just travel if you really need to you."

Tranz Metro spokeswoman Helen Keyes said all train lines into Wellington were closed affecting about 12,000 commuters.

The Johnsonville and Paraparaumu lines were closed by slips and downed trees and power lines. Massive waves had swamped the Hutt line.

Ms Keyes said it would be some time for the Johnsonville and Paraparaumu lines to open as there was so much clearing to do and there was a possibility of more slips.

"There's really no way of knowing - it depends how fast they can work to clear the lines."

The Hutt line may be able to open after high tide later this morning.

Just before 9am, Air New Zealand said the number of cancelled flights had risen to 61, affecting at least 3000 passengers.

No flights were likely before 10.30am.

Part of the roof of the Koru Lounge at Wellington Airport had been blown off, partially flooding the interior, and a Boeing 737 parked on the tarmac overnight was being inspected for possible damage. A spokesman did not know if that was caused by debris from the building.

Meanwhile Toll spokesman Paul Monk said it was too early to say how many passenger were affected by ferry cancellations: "It will be hundreds of people that are affected today."

Two return Lynx sailing and two return Interisland Ferry sailings were suspended.

The Fire Service was called out to "hundreds" of incidents overnight with roofs blown off, fences down and other widespread damage.

The control room was too busy to take calls but at the City station Senior Station Officer Mark Chapman said the night had been frantic and calls had not let up.

"Everybody is out and working flat out. We're so busy at the moment we can't even change over to the day shift because the night shift crews are still out there."

Roads closed in the central and lower North Island included SH1 between Rangipo and Taihape, SH4 between Taumarunui and Raetihi, SH47 between National Park and Junction SH41 and SH47, Napier-Taihape Road.

Several roads in the Wairarapa were closed including in Masterton, Carterton and South Wairarapa. A Wairarapa District Council spokeswoman said the Huangaroa River had flooded over a bridge crossing it.

Wellington Regional Council has issued flood warnings for rivers in the eastern Wairarapa. They were the Tinui, Taueru, Wahngaehu and Huangaroa. A WRC spokeswoman said there no flood warnings for rivers sourced in the Tararuas. She said there was surface flooding in much of the region.

Wellington City Council spokesman Richard McLean said there was "total transport chaos" around the region.

Motorists were being urged to stay off roads, particularly on the south coast because of waves and in the northern suburbs because of slips.

The road around the southern end of the airport was closed.

"There are huge waves coming across the road, bringing debris and seawater," he said.

"We are telling anyone who has to drive to use extreme care," he said. "Power lines are down, trees are coming down."

He had just had a report that a roof was coming off the large Placemakers store at Kaiwharawhara, just north of the city.

The harbourmaster's office said no problems had been reported with shipping, with most staying put. Staff were checking reports that boats had dragged their moorings in the Porirua area.

August 18, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

No shortage of drama

emergency-accident

A little follow up on our run in with the stranger with candy. I rung up the police and asked what happened. The constable, as they call themselves, explained that he was not permitted to tell me whether the guy had a criminal record. "I wish I could", he added. Then he explained that a man fitting the same description as our stranger had been wanted in questioning related to an incident at a book store the same day. The incident in question regarded a man rubbing his groin into a little girl.

The stranger has not been arrested, although the case has been handed off to Child Youth Protection services, or some such bureaucracy. I was also told that he is local to Wellington and he is known to hang out in the neighborhood where Babi works. In fact, the stranger has come in to the shop where Babi works TWICE this past week. We're hoping that the next time he comes in she can snap a photo of him. Perhaps even get his name and address.

Now onto the drama from this weekend...

Friday evening I was completely exhausted. I was about to put Emory to bed and pass out for the night myself. Then there was a knock at our door.

It was our neighbor saying that somebody has dinged our car and we had better come take a look.

It turns out that it was a bit more than a ding. A woman had smashed head-on into our parked car. Our car that was parked on the opposite side of the road from her lane of traffic. As I came outside our neighbor was consoling the girl inside the car. She was still at the wheel, hysterical. I asked if she was okay, she said yes. I told her not to worry about our car, that we're just relieved nobody was hurt. She wasn't really concerned with our car. She was concerned that her license was going to get taken away, that her car was totaled, and...that there were people standing around looking on...she screamed and freaked out that they were mocking her.

I asked, "How old are you?". She mumbled something that sounded like thirteen. Ahhhh, that explains everything. Just to be sure, I repeated, "Thirteen?".

"No...thirty!"

Oh. Okay. Hmmm...

I went inside to call the police. When I came out the girl was gone but her father was there. It turns out they live up the road from us. Hadley later explained to me that when the father came up to console the girl she went absolutely ballistic on her dad - cursing him out in a spitting fury and running home.

Then the dad told us that she's not well. She's on medication. She just got the car two weeks before and she's been doing so well with all her driving classes.

In the end, we dodged another bullet. If our car had to be in an accident, it's ideal that none of us were in it when it happened. We won't know how much damage has been done to the car until we take it in. Fortunately, our insurance is covering everything (except a loaner car). It sucks that it happened. But in the end, it is just a piece of metal. Again, it's very scary to consider what could have happened if this woman didn't hit a parked car but instead a car with people in it or even a person on the sidewalk for fuck's sake.

image12

Now I'm almost more concerned about the pattern that's emerging. That's our second run in with a serious psycho in as many weeks. They say these things come in three's. You can imagine how much I'm looking forward to this upcoming weekend.

August 16, 2004 in family, Life | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Strangers with candy. It happened. Today. To us.

Today we were out for a typical Saturday afternoon with the kids. We walked along Oriental Parade. Emory was riding his bike for the first time in a long while. Jasper was in awe of his big brother cruising at seemingly break neck speeds. We headed back towards mid city to get some coffee and do a few errands.

We were walking along the relatively bustling sidewalks of downtown Wellington, right past my office. Emory was trailing behind us, as he does. I turn to look where he was. I didn't see him.

Then Emory caught up to us and said, "A stranger just offered me lollies."

I was caught off guard, "What? Where?"

As I was turning around to look a hand reached down to Emory's face and put a candy bar under his chin, "Here...you want some lollies?"

I looked up at the person. At first glance he looked like maybe a homeless person or a drunk. But he was neither.

He had a look in his eyes that I will never forget. He was a predator. He had a victim locked in his sights.

I grabbed Emory and yelled at the guy in an angry voice, "No thank you! Please!"

WTF? God, tell me why, in the face of pure evil, I have to be polite?

He was surprised and taken off guard by my presence, as if he didn't realize I was standing there when he approached Emory. I suspect that he was so focused on what he was after that he could see nothing else.

He bitterly barked back at me, "I was only trying to give him lollies!"

He gave me a menacing leer and then quickly started walking away, but with his head twisted around looking back at us the whole time.

With Hadley pushing Jasper in the stroller, I grabbed Emory's handle bars and pulled him across the street.

When we got to the other side I got out my phone and called 111. While I was standing with the boys I explained to the emergency dispatcher what happened. Hadley started tailing the guy from our side of the street.

After some confusion we lost the guy. He was ducking in and out of shops all along the street. Then we saw him again. The operator told me to follow him and not let him out of my sight.

As I was following him I saw a police car drive down the street to where Hadley and the kids were. Just then I lost sight of the guy. I started heading down the nearest cross street and saw him again. As I got closer I think he saw me. He quickly ducked into a cheap jewelery shop. I was still on the phone with the operator when a police car drove up in front of me.

Two cops got out and I ended the call. The cops asked me where the guy was and then wanted me to explain to them what had happened. After I briefly explained to them what happened they went into the shop to question the guy and told me to stay by the police car.

A few seconds later they came out with the guy, questioning him. The guy looked across the street at me and he was looking distressed.

One of the cops came over, pulled out his note pad and asked me to give him a full account. As we were going over my statement the guy was being put into the back of the police car. The guy shot a few nasty glances at me.

After I signed the statement, I asked the cop if they could contact me to let me know what happens. I said I wasn't sure if there was anything they could do, but I thought that if the guy had a record or is a known child predator then maybe they could do something. He said they would take him in to be questioned by a detective and that we did exactly the right thing.

I walked back to Hadley and the boys. As I explained what happened, the police car drove past, stopping right behind us at the traffic light, before it disappeared.

At the time, I was pretty cool headed about the whole thing. I was mostly relieved that we "got" the guy. Now, a few hours later, it's really sinking in what happened. It's shocking how text book it was. We've told Emory many, many times that there are bad people that will offer him candy, who will try to take him away from us. We've always questioned ourselves if it's a little too much, wondered if we're a little too paranoid, or if we are exposing him to something too heavy. But we've always trusted ourselves. And Emory. It's not a pleasant thing to have to tell a small child, but it's a deadly important thing to talk about.

I hope this gives us more credibility in Emory's eyes. To really listen when we tell him these things. I'm a little worried that Emory just sees it all as a little excitement, like a TV show that, as always, has a happy ending where the good guy is saved and the bad guy gets caught. I don't want him to be terrorized by this incident, but I do hope it sinks in for him too.

August 8, 2004 in Emory, family, Life | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Pedro was here.

Pedro was here. (see photos in the latest gallery) In his three months here he managed to hit most of the major attractions in NZ, all throughout the North and South Islands.

In particular he seemed drawn to NZ's thrill seeking opportunities: sky diving, white water rafting, bungee jumping, etc. Along with plenty of backpacking, swimming, swimming with dolphins, surfing, and other more relaxing endeavors.

He's got some great photos and he's blogging his 'round the world journey.

Peter got to see a lot more of NZ than we have, by far. On the other hand, we're not here to go touring. Especially with two babes in arms. And now a mortgage. Visiting us, Peter got to see how the other half live and I think it scared the holy terror out of him!

It's funny how polar opposite we are in that way. He's living the vida loca, untethered, doing what he wants when he wants. While I'm the settled down, responsible, suburban dad. My parents never dreamed it would turn out that way; quite the opposite.

For all the grief of having kids and a mortgage and having to work hard to keep up the middle class family lifestyle, I have to say that I really enjoy the company, aka the wife and kids. When I think back on my days of travel and adventure I was always searching for something deep and meaningful, spiritually rewarding. Now, I have to say, I have truly found what I was looking for. This adventure that I'm in right now, the pursuit of middle class happiness, the adventure of raising a family is deeper and more meaningful, and more spiritually rewarding than anything I've ever done. And I even find that at the moment, where I am in the world now, there is enough rich detail and exotic surroundings in my immediate day-to-day environment to keep me stimulated.

On some level I am definitely jealous of Peter's globe trotting adventures. Then when I think about all of the work involved in packing your whole life into a bag and carrying it around with you everywhere on your back, constantly having to adjust to a new situation, a new bed, a new bunch of people, always on the go...I'm exhausted and irritated just thinking about it. On a side note, I'm always perplexed at how the fuck rockstars deal with that shit? Their lifestyle would drive me utterly insane.

So happy trails to Pedro. I hope you finds what you're looking for.

May 20, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack

Sandy Granzow (or why Google is the answer to everything)

Last night we were sitting around talking about the kids with Hadley and Babi (my mom, aka Helena). As we were talking I had a flashback to a childhood memory. I’ve been having this same flashback ever since Emory was born. It’s a memory from when I was a kid and we went to a family party. The party has been permanently etched into my brain as the prototypical definition of fun. The grown ups were all laughing and having a great time and there were loads of kids and we were all having fun running around playing games into the wee hours of the night.

As I was recounting this memory it suddenly struck me, the name of the woman who’s party it was: Sandy. Oh yeah, my mom said, Sandy…and the last name was on the tip of her tongue…Granzow! And we were both like Wow! Yes. That was it.

My mom wondered aloud, where is Sandy Granzow now. I immediately responded: Google her.

As I was brushing my teeth, getting ready for bed, my mom yelled out, “Do you know who Spikey Jones is?”

“Ahh…do you mean Spike Jonze?”

“Yes, Jonze with a ‘Z’. That’s Sandy Granzow’s son.

Pretty funny. It’s kinda like something straight out of a movie. Like a strange head trip of a movie.

March 19, 2004 in family, Life | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Good Times

There's been so much fun stuff going on that I haven't had a moment to update the blog. This city really makes a major effort to keep the good times rolling all thru the summer, despite the weather. In fact, it's probably to spite the weather.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • My first Cricket match (rugby is massively superior to American football, but I think baseball has a slight edge over cricket)
  • Movies By Starlight (read my full review)
  • Cuba Street Carnival
  • NZ Festival of the Arts (we went to a great stand up comedy night, capped off with watching the Mayor get jiggy – not a pretty site)
  • Karoake at Case De Sara-Matt-Ed
  • Dragon Boat Races
  • Ngaio School Gala

On top of all that, Peter arrived in NZ for a visit. It was nice seeing him after two years, but his visit was a bit odd. The first thing that freaked me out was seeing him when he got off the plane. For some reason, seeing him in person was bizarre. Somehow it shocked me at how “grown up” he was. Who the hell is this person that's my size? And looks just like me?! I guess I was expecting him to be a little kid, like Emory. I think it's because I've been telling Emory so many stories about when Peter and I were little kids that I've crystallized an image of Peter as my “little brother”.

Plus, I tend to cross my wires when it comes to Peter and Emory. I think I really relate to Emory on many levels as a brother, more than a son. I think it triggers some of my old reflexes of being the older brother. Sometimes when I look at Emory I see a quick flashback of Peter. Once I even had a very lucid dream where I was disciplining Emory and then when I turned around it wasn't Emory anymore, it was Peter standing there with the same expression as Emory. Kinda like that Luke Skywalker – Darth Vader flashback thing. Trippie and very strange.

March 19, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Real. Nice. Time.

The Baroda Street Experience has been really, truly wonderful (see the latest photos). A dream come true on so many levels. From the first night in the new house we felt right at home. It was almost like coming back to somewhere we've lived before. And the neighborhood is absolutely ideal. There's an outdoor pool at the park, just a block away. The primary school that Emory will attend when he turns 5 is two blocks away and it's on a stunning 'campus' in the middle of the bush with harbor views and tree houses and playgrounds galore. And for my morning commute I take the old metro train to work (and I do mean old, not so much cute old, more like 3rd world old - but I love it). Conveniently, the station is just a block away. Not to mention that we're surrounded by lush bush and there's a brook running through the neighborhood, coming down from Mt Kaukau.

The house is not entirely without some minor problems. We knew there were some issues with leaks. Before we even moved in there was a torrential storm that soaked one of the rooms. Nothing monumental, but it's something that has to be fixed and it won't be free, like it used to be when we were renting. All around the house there are 'little' projects on our list. Most of them 'it would make this room look so much better' fun projects.

This weekend was Waitangi Day. Similar, perhaps, in national relevance to July 4th in the US, but quite a different occasion. Instead of a celebration of national unity, it's an annual opening and festering of old wounds, revolving around alleged indigenous rights. Most people choose to enjoy the stat holiday and have fun instead of beating the dead horse. We certainly did.

I went to the Sevens Rugby with my mates and had heaps of fun (see the photos). I have to admit, the game is way more interesting to watch on TV - and it was an amazing series of games, all 20-back-to-back-hours of it! But the spectacle at the stadium is entertaining on so many other levels. The vibe is just plain fun. Everyone just whoops it up and gets goofy as. Including me. I did some things that I think aired on national TV that I hope will never come back to haunt me.

The Sevens is coming to the US in LA for the first time ever this weekend. You've got to see it (airing on FOX Sports). It's a truly fantastic sport. It makes wussy ass American football look like the patsy commercial pro-wrestling-esque sham that it is.

Speaking of good sporting fun, the Kiwis just won the World Softball Championship for the third time in a row this weekend. Shutting out the US team 9-0 in a playoff game with a mercy-rule 5 innings. Who knew?

To top the weekend off, we went to Whopper Chopper. This is an annual event around Wellington that just went national this year. It's a free festival of music, food, kids activities, sun and beach fun (see the photos). I tell you, the kiwis know how to have a real nice time. Emphasis on the real. And the nice.

Last weekend proves my point yet again. We went to the free summer concerts in the Botanic Garden (see the photos). Emory ran around chasing girls and while we enjoyed a picnic dinner of fish and chips in the warm summer evening. Does it get any better than that?

February 9, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Dec Xmas NYE 2003

It has been exceptionally fine Xmas-NYE holiday weather here in Wellington. We've been enjoying hanging out, gardening at the new house (we still haven't moved in yet - Jan 30 is the move-in date).

Here's some pix from the past month...

Late Dec 2003

Dec Xmas NYE 2003

January 6, 2004 in family, Life, New Zealand, photography | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack

Sold

image46.jpg

Barring any major last minute unexpected legal or financial snags, the house at number 10 Baroda Street, Khandallah (pronounced: kin - dahl - ah), Wellington, New Zealand is now ours!! There's still plenty of paper work and details to iron out, like finalizing the mortgage deal (fixed interest rate for how long? with a portion floating rate?) and sorting out all the necessary insurance (life, loss of income, home owners).

However, this afternoon we handed over one of the big checks. It was half of the deposit money. The agent we're buying from gave us a nice bottle of expensive Champagne, in return. The other half we'll hand over when the wire transfer arrives. And the big fat the-house-is-now-really-yours-here-are-the-keys check will be handed over on January 30, 2004 - our move-in date. Of course, there's heaps of "little" incidental costs that are piling up, as they do. And it turns out we're breaking our lease on the house we're in now, so we have to find new tenants, more drama, twists and turns.

Nevertheless, it is a really good feeling to have finally done this. It's a major milestone in our adulthood, something we've been working towards for about five years. The funny thing is that it hasn't seemed as gut wrenching as other major purchases in my life, like buying a car or buying various computer systems. For some reason, this has been remarkably easy and smooth, especially considering the magnitude of the transaction. Despite all my carry-on about the twists and turns, I feel quite comfortable with the way this has all happened. We've been working with some really great people, especially our mortgage broker, who has really made it all possible. He's gone a long way to making the whole process feel right. This whole experience has once again proven why I have a lot of trust in Kiwis - I never really felt like we were getting ripped off or scammed or manipulated. Everyone seemed to be very level, honest, and sincerely helpful.

No doubt, it's still nerve wracking. I don't think there's any way it couldn't be. It did happen all of a sudden, in a very short span of time from causally house hunting to buying, but we really have been preparing for this for a long time. It just feels like it's the right thing to do at the right time in the right place. It feels just like we're going with the flow, as it should be.

December 19, 2003 in family, Life, New Zealand | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack