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The Dashing Life and Exuberant Times of Brian Harrison....And Other Rare Anecdotes

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Veterans of War and Elvis

We eventually found Kerosene Creek just outside of Rotorua. Driving all over dirt roads; getting half lost in the gorgeous back country. There was a South African man with his son looking for this fabled stream as well. We eventually found it and dipped right in, not naked...in my boxers. The South African and his boy arrived and got right inside this secretive hot-water stream as it flowed past down into the forest.

Rotorua is a town invaded by thermal activity. It seems that there are these potential volcanoes still kicking in the Earth's womb, not yet outside into the air...but definitely there and kicking. We stayed the night at this hostel in Rotorua, the smell of sulphur wafting through the air. I remember having my ear nearly talked off by this Australian lady, she was older and had travelled the world; was some sort of anthropologist.

Then night fell. And as Tyler were walking around this sulphur-inundated streets. We heard this loud far off music. Like it was ripping from some distant mountain. Or in between the cracks and crevices of the fetal volcanoes. Our footsteps made their way towards these sounds. And what to our ears we did sense? but Ricky Martin's "Livin La Vita Loco" and we knew that this distant place had to be visited. We followed the sounds for a good ten minutes...somehow never arriving, thinking them to be mystical sounds emitting from the stars of the southern skies. Around a bend, we finally discovered the source of this NZ getdown....it was the circus....a Samoan circus at that! Which meant that large Polynesian warriors in grass skirts with painted faces doing acrobats and juggling canoe paddles...and maybe if lucky riding unicylces.

Of course, my natural reaction was..."Hey, Tyler let's find a way in." Of which Tyler's natural reaction was "I'm not sneaking in there. Those guys are really big. Whose descendants used to be cannibals." (Tyler really didn't say the part about the cannibals; I added it to spice up the dialogue.) So Tyler talked me out of more tomfoolery. And we didn't want to pay to get in...for the show was nearly over and what fun is paying for admittance.

So we skipped on down the street away from the carnival-styled pavilions, away from the booming tents, until we ended up walking towards this building with all these young athletes standing around in jerseys. Maybe it was a rugby team, maybe it was netball, or maybe, it might have been a very rare basketball team that you can still catch sights of in NZ. We passed through this crowd of uniformed juveniles; they all gawking at us, when just on the other side of this building, through the windows thronged multiples of elderly people. There was this type of country twang seeping out of the walls into the streets. And all these older folks swayed in their seats and their tables that were lined with mugs of beer and glasses of wine. A few grandfathers with their age-old lovers dancing to the rhythm, entwined into the moment of youthfulness and joviality in that sweep of music.

Again, my reaction was "We've got to go in." Tyler's reaction was a little hesitant. I darted inside the doors to the bustling crowd. I was curious about this place. Maybe it was the place where all the happy, content old people go to review their life, to recall the most joyful times of their long lives. As though the hours had been collected of all that makes one happy, and it so shined forth into one room and one place and time.

I was in the New Zealand RSA which stands for the Returned Services Association. The same thing as our VFW...and tonight was a hoedown night. The Kiwis with their wives assembled here had served their country afar and could still tell their stories of WWII and there after, and if that was not enough than they could recount their father's stories of WWI. And if you still weren't content then they could retell their grandfather's or great-grandfather's tales of the Boer Wars in South Africa. Contrary to belief...the Kiwis have been active in the Great Wars, and believe it or not have pride enough in this service to commemorate their veterans. Believe me...I just spent ANZAC day in this nation and there is much hype about it.

But what was I to do with these folks? This wasn't the first time mingling with an older crowd. In Arkansas, my friends and I dressed in tuxes and went bounding through the local Lions Den inciting all kinds of madams and old southern gals to try to catch a dance with us youngbloods. (It was after we'd been to a wedding and as most weddings in Searcy, AK goes...no dancing. So we thought we'd find a jiving dancefloor on our own.)

I went around the RSA bar dodging walking sticks and cheerful, inquisitive stares. When sitting back at this table sort of away from all the crowd were two younger people, about my age. A guy and a girl. With them sat this older man who nodded amiably at me when I looked towards them. "They're about as out of place as I am." I thought. Tyler eventually joined me and we were standing there taking in the music and all, getting ready to leave when the older fellow who was off with the young couple off to the side taps me on the back and with a grin asks me if I was German. He was tall, kinda big. He sort of had this forward lunge with his shoulders going that made me think of a boxer. Along with a gold tooth or two and his large, spade like hands.

Now, it would be logical to assume that at most RSAs and VFWs, he was up to causing trouble with this question. Seeing how it is very possible that one of his best friends or his uncle was killed by a German. But no such caution ever occurred to me, and the guy seemed too nice to be provoking a bar brawl especially with all these grandmothers around. I say, "No." He says, "Well, where are you from?"
"From the states."

He then careens around to the young couple back at that table. And says to me, "Now, I was betting them that you were German....like them. But I guess I was wrong, mate. Well, then, my name's Mike. Mike Baker. I'm from around these parts...Rotorua."
He sticks out this large hand we shake as he gives me this military big guy grip.
"Come. the both of you, get you a drink and join us."
So we do so. And these two young people are from Germany. And Mike had met the girl in town. Mike Baker was one of those guys who must show off his hometown so he meets absolute strangers and foreigners and shows them around. And invites them to every single thing that he himself does. They all saw me and my long, blonde hair and thought that possibly I could add to their party a 3rd German. But I disappointed their efforts. I don't know why people hold to these stereotypes. I mean, all the Germans I've ever known have had brown hair and brown eyes.

We talked a great bit. Mike was giving us all a long lecture about the history of New Zealand. Mainly because I asked and I enjoy to hear the stories and the passions of older people. We went on talking about Germany. According to Tyler, the German girl was really locking eyes with me. But I don't know about that. I was having a hard time figuring out if the German couple really was that..a couple. So I asked if they knew each other before they got to New Zealand or met while backpacking around. She didn't really understand my question and before I could rephrase it, Mike Baker, I guess wanted to provoke some drama to the table, perks up and says, "He wants to know if you're single?" And then gives this sinister gold-toothed grin. Somehow I managed to rephrase the question and the awkwardness was lessened.

All of us were deep into conversation, when all of a sudden an Elvis impersonator enters the building all dressed in white and begins to sing. Mike Baker gets really excited and completely stops whatever he was telling us and turns around to view Elvis. "Oh..Elvis is here. Time to go up closer." So he just rushes up with his mug of beer to the edge of the dancefloor to view Elvis. We were left to wonder what all the commotion was about for everything got really quiet in there. Even orders at the bar stopped which was a big deal for New Zealand. All eyes and ears were on this Elvis performer. The women were all starry eyed. He would sing and shake his hips and walk over to the old ladies and fondle them. They would shiver in their seats. Even the old men seemed to shiver with utmost respect for Elvis Presley. It was almost as though it was their national anthem being played and everyone had to show their honor. The rest of us young people followed Mike to the edge of the floor.
I kept asking Mike questions and his attention would only stay with me for a half a second and then go back to Elvis. "How come no one's dancing?"
"Because Elvis is out there." Mike shot back.
The impersonator was pretty awful. His southern accent sounded Australian. And he couldn't sing too well. I could do a better Elvis performance.

Mike gave me his contact information and told me if ever I was in Rotorua again to look him up. There is a good chance of that and I will definitely look him up. We left the building, pretty sure that no one noticed...because Elvis hadn't left it yet.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baring It All at Mt. Maunganui

We rented a car and went hopping over the hills of the North Island heading to Wellington. But we intended on a few scenic stops on the way. Nestled right on the Bay of Plenty was this city called Tauraga where we heard about these hot salt-water baths. These sounded good to me with my sore back and neck and this sounded good to Tyler who wanted a good cleansing for his skin. So we set our sights on this hot salt-water bath in this place called Mt. Maunganui.

We arrived at night just as the place was closing. I walked straight into them past the admission just wanting to check out these baths. Much like the ancient Roman baths of long ago, there were multiple pools all heated to different temperatures. It wasn't long before a young Kiwi apprehended us and told us that they were closing down. In disappointment, we asked him if there were any late night hot salt water baths open. He went on talking about the facilities and then paused and looked over at one of the pools, and said, "Wow, you see that rat!" He pointed wanting us to join in on this curiosity of nature. "I mean that rat's so big?" This was said not out of disgust. But almost out of admiration. Sure enough, this large rat was skittering here among the pools. "I'll give you 10 dollars if you can catch that rat. No, I'm serious 10 dollars, if you catch it."
Tyler and I were already getting used to the nice and quirky ways of most Kiwis. We thought he was joking, though he was probably serious. And so we went on taking about how we wished we could dip in some hot baths somewhere. That's when this young Kiwi, said under his breath, "You know there's not an alarm on these pools." In confusion, we said, "What?" He repeated himself with a glint in his eye, "These pools don't have an alarm on them."
It was then that we fully understood him. "Oh" and we said our thanks and departed.
We waited maybe half an hour. We kept driving by the baths to see when the last cars where gone. But we were getting impatient. So we parked further up the street and snuck behind the baths, peering like spies over the wall. There were only 3 workers still around closing up. The baths were squared in by this wall only. Like an old fortress. There were no roofs or ceilings. You could see the hot steam wafting up into the cool night air. The lights were shut off, but everything was still visible. And as soon, as we realized that the last worker had left. We both nimbly climbed over the wall. Dropped our towels. And then stripped off our clothes to our birthday suits and plunged right in. We each went to separate pools, because being in the same pool with another naked guy was a bit awkward.

I was in one pool letting this hot shower massage down my strained neck. The mountain of Maungauni towering above and not far the ocean rushing and slapping into the sands. Out of the corner of my eye, I look up and off in the shadows I see not one naked person but two. This was very confusing for me. You see, pure mathematics insisted that there were indeed two naked people in these baths. Tyler and myself...and myself I could not see (naturally). But this glimpse of another nude figure about Tyler's height and frame posed a problem. Then I saw Tyler shake hands with this mysterious naked figure. Was I seeing double? I don't want to stare. I mean there's nakedness everywhere. And as I proceeded out of the pool to investigate, the nudeness of the moment was not enough, for another naked man dropped over the wall. What is this? Is this for real? The first naked man approached me and a very cordial meeting took place. We shook hands, much like one would do in a church foyer or a reception...all except we were naked. And just when the nudity was unbearable and just downright perplexing, I saw another peach-colored shadow on the wall. And down-dropped, not another naked man...but a naked woman.

Which to my Victorian upbringing, was the oddest thing of all. And then we all shook hands and met as though at a social event. And then we explained our story...and they explained theirs. That they do this quite often. Into many different hot baths around the area. The first naked man was from that region of New Zealand. The 2nd naked man and the naked woman were from Canada and had been working there for 7 months. Conversation ensued between naked Tyler and 1st Naked Man and 2nd Naked Man. While I,( and I promise you no motive here) found myself chatting away with the naked girl. The water completely submerged everything risque. Though, what strangeness. She was just telling me about the jobs she's done here as though everything is ordinary. Maybe, I was in the wrong. But what else could I do?

Then the 1st naked man proceeded to climb up on one of the tarps hanging over one of the pools, but his foot went through with aloud rip. Next, he and the 2nd naked man climbed ontop of another tarp and sprang off of them into the deepest pool. They both commented on our inexperienced way of climbing the wall first, then stripping down instead of stripping down first THEN over the wall naked..for if security comes, we'll have to gather up our clothes and escape over the wall INSTEAD of the more climatic escape of hurling oneself over the wall in the nude and running butt naked until the appropriate time should occur where reclothing oneself is possible.

The naked troupe left us...going to a club. We hopped over the wall and put on our clothes. That night we couldn't find a place to sleep so Tyler slept in the car and I slept out near the beach.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Great Leap

I had just visited the chiropractor in Auckland for a 2nd session, when I asked him what type of activities were banned.(See my last note) I asked him about zorbing, rock climbing, sledging, sky-diving, most especially bungy jumping...all the kinds of things that make New Zealand what it is...a dashing, romping, adrenaline-pumping nation of adventure mongerers and extreme sports participants. The chiropractor told me that he wasn't one to say, "absolutely not", that I was in New Zealand...I should have some fun. But he did state the obvious that indulging in gut-wrenching activities can keep my sprained back from healing as quickly. He gave me several cracks on my spine, and a massage and I went bounding to the Auckland City Centre, Queens Street to meet Tyler and our free tour bus ride.

The bus picked us up within minutes and it was to take us all around the vast city of Auckland giving us a brief glimpse of New Zealand's largest city, where one can view both the Pacific and the Tasman Sea in one setting. The bus started off and we were surrounded by young backpackers of various nationalities. Just around the block, our bus climbed, to get the largest building in the southern hemisphere, the Sky Tower. The Sky Tower is shaped just like the needle tower in Seattle, Washington. They have a restaraunt on top, and will charge even those folks that just want to look at the Auckland sky line, a whopping $24 to ride to the top. Apparently, in the true Kiwi spirit, there was a cord attached to the top and a person could jump off of it, if he or she so desired and if the person was willing to shuffle out about $200 for the fast-accelerating trip. We were going to watch this amazing spectacle. There was a landing pad down below with a large X painted on it where the thrill seeker could land safely and without plummeting straight into Auckland traffic.

We all hopped off the bus, my sprained back and sore neck thankful for the respite; bus rides seem to jostle it around a bit. We stood crowded at the base of the lofty skytower, the landing pad near, and our tour guide before us. "Okay", he said, " We're about to watch someone do the skytower jump. And since this is everyone's first time in New Zealand,...would anyone be willing to be a volunteer to jump for free?"

I guess it was just my enthusiastic impulse. There wasn't a moment's reflection. My hand shot up into the sky, seeming to pierce the clouds that were beckoning to me so heedlessly. The tour guide's brow's raised, "Oh I like your enthusiasm." Several other hands shot up after mine. But I was the most glaringly obvious. The tour guide looked at me, "Well then, come with me, and we'll get you harnessed up."

I couldn't believe what I was hearing. He was being absolutely honest. He wasn't joking. I was getting this free treat only because of my impulsiveness. This was great!

But what about my sprained back? I guess it'll be okay. It's not a bungy jump where you attach this cord to your legs and then your spine, neck, and shoulders, all go whiplash when the cord stretches to it's utmost. No, this was just the type of freefall where the cord is attached to your waist area and you fall until you're about to splat on the pavement and the cord eases you down like a parachute onto that before mentioned X-landing pad. I asked the guy if having a slightly hurt back should be a problem. I wanted to avoid the word, "sprained" it had a negative connotation. He told me to jump into the air and then land firmly with both feet. I did so without pain. And he said, if you can handle that, then you can handle the sky tower jump. I said something along the lines of, "Woohoo, let's go."

Down to the basement of the tower I went to get suited up. They placed this parachuting suit on me, then a harness. I asked him if I could have a cape, maybe even a mask. He laughed. And I told him him that they should have tuxedos for people to wear, so they can feel like James Bond when falling from the sky to the city life below. They didn't have any of these innovations with them. I think next time, I'll have that luchador wrestling mask with me.

Then it was up the elevator to the top and to where my leap should take place. I remember it being a cloudy day, the grating I walked out on was slick with moisture. They hooked the cord onto the back of my harness, and walked me out to the edge. The wind blew. I could see all of Auckland bustling below. The blues seas off frolicking on either side of the metropolis.

I was 630ft in the air. The highest structure in the southern hemisphere. The guy before me turned around and backed off the edge in one backwards step. The guys who worked the rigging told me it was funner to face the outside and just walk off. So I did this, my hands holding on to either side of the wire, my feet right on the edge, I stepped out, and down I fell maybe a few feet. Til they let me hang there, dangling before the entire city. This is where you're supposed to look up and pose for the cameras and the people in the restaraunt ontop. For seconds, I dangled and then swoosh.....I fall. The buildings go from antsize to normal. The wind hums as I flash by. I was loving it.

From the initial drop, I had deliberated on my descent. It had to be perfect. So I kicked one leg straight down and folded up the other, while my arms outstretched from my torso, so that my entire fall was like a superhero in full grandeur, landing in the heart of the city. The windows of all the neighboring buidlings and towers whizzed past me.

I saw the crowd centered around my landing pad. And they began to cheer when I touched down in grand fashion like a superhero arriving on the scene. Tyler had his laptop out and was filming the entire thing. The batteries in his camera with the video option was dead. So he was filming with his laptop. But very ironically, because a laptop is difficult to angle, his recording missed my entire flight down and had the view right before me. But he did manage to get some interesting interviews with some Kiwi school children on a field trip who were watching me land. After talking to them, he got them rallied up and they were a great audience. Right now, Tyler and I are trying to befriend this Dutch girl who was on the tour, who filmed my descent, so that we could have footage of the entire thing. My back hardly noticed that it free fell for about 11 seconds.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

My Pain-filled Flight Over the Pacific

The Sunday morning before the plane was to lift off and carry us away across the Pacific. I did the unthinkable as far as preparing for long sojourns in bumpy, uncomfortable seats goes. Without thinking clearly about the repercussions, I tried popping my neck with a fierce, solid jerk to one side. I did it all involuntarily, until I realized that I had really screwed something up back along my spine. I hate giving myself cricks. I can't blame the pillow and I can't blame the headlock, I can only lay blame on my own wretched hands. My head locked from nodding or shaking. So a day before our long flight I screw up my back pretty badly. I spent all day in California swallowing ibuprofens, rubbing down in Ben Gay, and turning only at my waist and not my neck nor my shoulders. By the end of the day, when our 11:30 flight approached, I was doing better.

My optimism lasted all the way until I boarded the plane and got to my seat, and just before I sat down that's when my fate changed for the worse. Sitting next to me was this hefty Polynesian woman from Fiji who needed help lifting her ridiculously heavy carry-on in the above compartment. I, being the courteous gentleman, hoisted the bag full of what seemed to be dumbbell weights. I am no weakling. Everything was okay with this bags transit from the floor to about my chest. But about chest high, an immediate savage pain goes searing through my neck and back, and all at once I realize what a feat I'm undertaking and that I really should lay the luggage back on the ground, but that male embarrassment of if I give up...all the people in the entire airplane will see it and think "what a weiner that guy can't even lift that lady's luggage for her". (the carry-on bag was small-looking; but dimensions can be deceiving). I could see the stewardess coming and lifting the bag for both of us at which the attentive passengers would applaud. And then later on, the pilot would get on the intercom and make jokes about the guy who couldn't lift the lady's carry-on. It was too much.

So in the split second dilemma with the pain cutting into my spinal muscles, I mustered up this barbaric determination and with a growl, I heave the carry-on with all the stamina inside me, into its respective place. And then I feel a knife stabbing into my back. All my upper body muscles go tense. My head seemed to drift on this dizzy wire of pain. I realize what a mistake that was. I sat down almost feeling like I could black out. And I just sat there in spinal torment thinking, "Why did I have to lift her luggage for her?" For the next few hours, it took considerable concentration to even move my arms. I had to block out the pain. I remember what a accomplishment it was to be able to get my seat belt from out from underneath me and buckle them. The Fijian woman tried conversing with me but I wasn't much help. For one, I couldn't turn my head to her, another...I was in really no mood to talk to anyone. And furthermore, I was just a little angry at her for packing her entire iron-safe collection in that carry-on of hers.

I had a long,long flight. It was a 10 hour one spent in misery and agony. And for some reason the pilot thought it would be fun to go bounding his aircraft through cloud after cloud, causing all kinds of turbulence, and giving my neck and back no respite even in their cushioned chairs. Naturally, sleeping on an airplane is usually nonexistent. I knew it was to be certain this time. I stayed awake the whole night. Wretched and Miserable. Somewhere over the Pacific, I started placing ice on the sore and this helped numb the pain some. And I guess the pain wouldn't be so bad, if I wasn't on an airplane and could lay down somewhere. But 10 hours of just sitting awkwardly in these airplane seats, my spine collecting constant weight on these soft areas on my back, made it so long and torturous.

We had a layover in Fiji the next morning. Though, only one where we could visit the airport. So I lay in the airport floor and when Tyler helped me back up off the ground, I nearly roared. We boarded the plane for the 3 hour flight to New Zealand. I had made it through the night. And I had a window seat and tried peering out into the blue vastness below. Though, I had to sacrifice alot by doing so.

In Auckland, we went through orientation for my program. And afterwards, I found a chiropractor and even got a discount for the program I'm in. The chiropractor told me that I had sprained my back and that I had 3 weeks to heal. He did several massages and some of his own useful vertebrae popping. By that evening, even though I hadn't slept in a long, long time. My back was beginning to feel better. What a friendly welcome to New Zealand. The one place...nearly every activity you engage in, you need all your joints and sinews working properly.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

By Train

Santa Monica

Around Santa Monica, along the upper strata of LA and up into the rolling hills of Malibu, we spent our last weekend in the states. What can I say about that stay but that it was typically American. We visited lots of shops, consumed lots of food, and
was somewhat entertained to say the least. I went to Church in Beverly Hills with Krista and Tyler and myself. There is this nifty, artsy little coven in the Beverly Hills high school where a large group of young christians meet. I was told later about the Church of Christ where Weird Al Yakovich leads the singing, but I found out about it too late to attend there.

Then there was Hollywood. The short hike up to a nice view of the giant white letters sprawled out on the hill. The 3 of us crammed into a VW bug, on the star-littered streets of Vine and Hollywood, windows rolled down and yes, just for the rarity of it, country music blaring from the radio and all of us singing along. Even as we passed a camera-infested, red carpeted region..maybe a limo or two..we belted Waylon and Willie and Alabama out. Krista was really missing the South. -That's a true Alabama southern belle for you.

One night, while we were venturing into Santa Monica, taking note of all the street performers, there was an unlikely candidate for our attention. There was this Creationist hurling his beliefs into the passing crowds of LA below a sign that read, "$250,000 for the person that can prove that macro-evolution exists." There was a microphone that he was on and across from him, another microphone for anybody willing to engage in a little debate. He was slamming this pothead back and forth with his carefully carved arguments. But something was all wrong here. Something was wrong with the idea of wrestling with people to make them come to faith, as though you can logically convince them of God...as though it is all a rational equation and that a person comes to God over proof. Or better worded, making them realize you're right and they're wrong. This Creationist had all types of props out, including what looked to be a life-sized dummy though it lay in the pavement concealed with a sheet. The microphone was once again bare, and Tyler the Theologian walked up to it with his cowboy boots on and spoke. And what commenced was this huge debate over literal and metaphorical truth and over the complexity of the biblical texts. Tyler did wonderful, giving the man a run for the crowds' admiration. And of course, both parties left, as all debates do, with neither side caving in to the other. But I'm glad Tyler stepped up to the plate and challenged the guy as well as the others, whose definition of "christian" was torn out of that narrow box.

The next day, a large group of us. Southerners that is. (Several friends of mine and some friends of theirs) spent the day in the Fashion District in Santa Monica. The clothes were cheap in this section. Parts of it reminded me of Mexico. There was this one crowded section where the people scattered every which way carrying their shopping bags and their receipts. At the beginning of this street, a large man bellowed out at us that we should, "See the man with the giant feet!"

Not knowing what this meant, we quickly passed the tip off as the ravings of a lunatic. That was until we saw with our own eyeballs, this man with the giant feet. It was this short, stocky Hispanic standing in the middle of the walkway. People darting around him like he was some fierce rock in the middle of a stream. For below him he had these oversized, gargantuan feet seeming to dig into the pavement. He wore these sandals made especially for his large feet. Each toe was almost the size of my wrist. And that was just about the entirety of his foot were his toes. He held a can out soliciting money from his enormous paddles. Everyone stared in unbelief as they passed by. As I walked by,the friend behind me decided to document this feature of city life, and had pulled a camera out,just as we passed, the large-footed man blew up at the sight of my friend's camera saying, "Learn some respect for humanity!" with a few curse words thrown in there. And as we walked away, he stared us down in a violent glare. I guess he forgot that he was soliciting himself by holding a cup and standing where everyone could see him.

A little while later, we're passing by this crowded street again and the big-footed man hasn't moved at all. And as I'm approaching, he is burning his eyes into me. Not my friend who actually had the camera, but me. He got us mixed up. He thought I was the Steven Spielberg, or the Ansel Adams with the camera, and all I was doing was just walking by the guy. And with the most aggressive look, he says to me in a Mexican accent as I brush by him, "Man, I will kick your ass!" Well, Lord forgive me, but I cannot stand being threatened when I did absolutely nothing to warrant it,and probably my response was wrong, but someone needed to reprimand this belligerent man, so I shot back, "With which toe?"

We left America Sunday night and we made it to New Zealand. And what experiences we've had so far.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Bus Ride in California

Sometime in the afternoon when the sun was still high and stabbing the Pacific. The bus dropped us off at the base of a hill at the gates of Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. Our luggage absorbed the entire sidewalk as we walked up that pavement. Tyler noted that we must have been the first people to have been dropped off in such a fashion at the footsteps of Pepperdine...their students being all rather wealthy.

The train pulled into LA that day around noon. We had spent 40 hours riding across half the nation. And we made it to the end of it all...the great, vast Pacific. Which soon we were to cross.
As we rolled all our luggage up the steep hill, we deliberated on calling my friends at this fine institution. But we were burdened down with all the luggage. So we hid all our baggage behind the tennis courts where supposedly Matthew Mcnaughey or maybe it was Pamela Anderson plays. We threw them in the midst of these bushes. My suit case and large backpack doing somersaults into their respective hiding places in the brush. Then..it was up to the student center to grab something to eat, to contact my Pepperdine friends, and to recharge all electrical devices. We retreived our luggage shortly after and was shown to our lodging for the next 2 nights...at Aaron and Dusty's dorm.

The Crazy Cat Woman

Every town has their own sort of eccentrics. Our first encounter with Malibu we had the outright fortune to meet one of this affluent town's most capital mad persons. We were on the bus from Santa Monica to Malibu, all our luggage surrounding our seats, when the bus stopped and this middle-aged woman climbed on board with her cat. The bus driver said something to her. She said loudly as in protest, and held out some type of permit card. Detailing how a cat was definitely aloud on board. And how dare he question the rights of cats. As she sat, rather irate, she continued to preach about the "backward" civilizations were cats are less welcomed. Then she got into insulting certain passengers on board, notably the 2 Hispanic girls sitting near her. And then to this little old grandmother who held a baby and her boy of a grandson sitting nearby. Something to the effect of calling her pathetic for disciplining her children in old school ways. She mentioned it as "child abuse". The boy was about to smart off when the grandma wrapped her bony hand around his mouth to keep him from probably indulging in a little name calling. The crazy cat lady saw this and began to insult them more saying that there are such people who so warp their children into being just as ignorant as they themselves are. At this belittlement, I had had enough. I couldn't take anymore. So right after this comment, I chimed in very matter of factly, "....Well, maybe, if they're lucky they'll grow up to be those crazy cat woman types who ride on buses, who talk complete nonsense, insulting everybody. For everyone knows that a town is not complete without such ridiculous people."

The cat woman's eyes widen. She was under attack and she knew it. Her worshipped cat hopped about on her lap. Her lashings continued but this time aimed at the entire bus. "You know psychologists say that those who use the bus as a form of public transportation are the dregs, the lower class of a civilization, the mass of the uneducated." Tyler, shot back, "Ma'am, Just so you know I have a Master's degree."
And I couldn't help to infuriate her more with a confession, "And I...I...I've eaten cat!" I announced to the whole bus. "And how good and tasty it was." ( I haven't really eaten cat that I'm aware of, I just thought to throw it in there.) She was pretty perturbed and continued her rantings. And when her stop came she marched off with her kitty. She was probably the president of PITA.

Footage of the First Leg of Our Journey

Here's a little video of our drive from Birmingham to Houston. This is the first footage of an outgoing video we have in the making of our voyage and experiences to New Zealand and in New Zealand. I'll try to embed the rest in this blog, but for now you're a click away.