Thursday, June 25, 2009

Hey Bartender

A few weeks ago, when my friend Shannon asked me if I wanted a job for the weekend that involved long hours of hard work for no pay, I jumped at the chance. And that's how I found myself down at the Lake Wanaka Center on a Friday and Saturday night bar tending at the annual Wearable Creations Fashion Show & Party.

To be fair, I really couldn't call what I was doing "bar tending." We only had two brands of beer, four varieties of white wine, and one type of red on offer. Serving the beer took no more skill than opening the bottle, and serving the wine rarely took any more--most of our wine sales were by the bottle as well, rather than by the glass. Every so often I was called upon to actually pour a glass of wine, but I think I managed to master that particular skill sufficiently well. Like I said, not really bar tending--I didn't have to learn to mix any fancy cocktails or anything.

Wearable Creations is easily one the biggest, and most anticipated, events in town. The show is three hours long, and features, as the name implies, wearable creations conceived, designed and modelled by fellow Wanakans? Wanakites? Wanakanos? people from Wanaka. And, boy howdy, are there ever some creative and talented people from Wanaka! Some of the entries included: a suit made entirely of wine bottle corks; a 20's-style flapper dress made of plastic cutlery; another flapper comprised of a couple thousand beer bottle pull tabs; two dresses made of toilet paper; and a couple dresses made of red, yellow, and blue 'admit one' tickets.

But my three favorites entries were as follows:

3.) The dress made entirely out of zippers--10 kgs (22lbs) worth according to the emcee--that started out as a long, billowing ball gown but kept getting smaller and smaller throughout the routine as layer after layer kept getting unzipped until our model finally strutted off in little more than a tank-top and miniskirt, made of zippers.

2.) A dress made of old car parts, complete with a license plate in the back, flashing turn indicators on the elbows, and a pair of working headlights exactly where you'd expect a pair of headlights to be. This of course prompted more than a few cat calls from the crowd of "Hey baby, nice headlights!" Pretty clever--the dress design, not the cat calls.

1.) Easily the highlight of the show! Two gorgeous women (who I later found out are aerobics instructors at the local health club) showcasing a local graphic artist's abilities with body paint. The medium? Chocolate. That's right--naked aerobics instructors body-painted in chocolate! Did I mention the show was a tad risque at times, and had an R18 rating? That means nobody under 18 was allowed in, which, as it turns out, made the bar tending gig that much easier because we didn't have to worry about checking IDs (the legal drinking age in NZ is 18).
The show, and even the bar tending work, was great fun. I met heaps of people and added them to my grocery list--that's the ever-expanding list of people I now know and could potentially run into while shopping. Or in Dunedin as the case may be! I ran into the show's head organizer, Kate, and her husband Ian, another of the bartenders, at the Governor in Dunedin the day after my big night out following the All Blacks game. That was kind of cool.

Now if you'll excuse me, my aerobics class down at the health club is starting soon!


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage Part II

We entered the stadium and found our seats, stopping on the way at the concession stand for some Steinlagers of course. Our seats were pretty good. We were on the front row at the corner of the end zone. The ABs were doing their pre-game warm-ups not ten meters from us. Other pre-game activities included the Mayor of Dunedin (not my friend, Aaron, but the actual elected city official) singing the New Zealand national anthem. I'd never heard it before. It's really cool. It's bilingual, the words in both Maori and English. But that was just the preamble to the most important of pre-game festivities: the Haka. I've seen the AB's Haka on television or in you tube clips a number of times, but nothing compares to seeing it live and in person--a true highlight of the entire experience!

The game got underway. The French took an early lead, and looked as though they were going to dominate the entire match. Our heroes came back at the end of the first half to score a try (directly in front of our seats no less) to narrow the gap. But narrow the gap was the best they could do. The French emerged victorious with a 27-22 win. Bloody hell. Is there anything worse than losing to the French? Oh well, on with the evening's festivities. Can't let the AB's loss put a damper on a big night out on the town.

The queue for the buses going back into town was a mile long so we decided to hoof it. A good long walk, but it was kind of fun walking down the street with a couple thousand people. I did fear for the safety of a few rather boisterous French fans that kept asking people in a sarcastic way, "Who won? Did you see who won? Did the French beat the mighty All Blacks?" Not too bright.

After our marathon trek back into town, our first stop of the night was a bar called Toast. While there I bumped into a friend of Brooke and Aaron's who I met the first time I was in Dunedin. A while back I thought it was kind of neat to bump into someone I knew at the grocery store, now I'm bumping into people I know in a town three hours from where I live which I've only been to once before. Toast was alright. We only stayed for one drink. Next stop was Pop. Having just left Toast, all I could think of when we entered Pop was Pop Tart, and I wondered if we'd later round out the toastable breakfast foods with a stop at Bar Eggo Waffle. Pop was fun. A dark little bar below street level that played dance music. At one point during our Pop stay I had to excuse myself to the restroom. I found each of the two toilets occupied so I leaned against the wall in the little anteroom outside. Moments later a girl walked into the little anteroom and saw me waiting patiently. I said "hello." She said, "you're cute" and then proceeded to wrap her arms around my neck and start kissing me. Now I know this might come as a shock, but cute strangers kissing me out of the blue isn't all that common of an occurrence for me. But, 'when in Rome,' right? And I'll tell ya, I've had worse experiences while in line for the pisser--like, for instance, every other time in my entire life that I've ever been in line for the pisser.

After more than a few drinks at Pop, we thought it would be a fantastic idea to go to the casino and make a deposit. While we may not have had, the doorman at the casino seemed to have our best interest at heart, when he uttered three simple words before we were even within thirty feet of the door: "Not tonight, fellas." We sure felt like we appeared sober. Guess not. Thank you mister doorman. You probably saved us heaps of cash.

Having been denied our opportunity to blow all our money, we changed tack and decided finding some fallafel was now priority number one. And in this respect, our luck was aces. We found a late-night Turkish takeaway not three blocks from the casino. Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Well, maybe not chicken. What is fallafel anyway?

Having satisfied our late night kebab craving, we hit a couple more bars, the names of which, if I ever knew them, I have since forgotten. I remember though, at one of them I ran into my friend Agustin who worked at the vineyard during harvest. And that was nice.

The rest of the evening is a tad bit hazy. But I do remember our desperate attempts to hail a cab for the ride home, because there was no way on God's green earth we were going to attempt to walk up the small mountain atop of which Jason's house sits. I think it was probably the 12th empty cab to pass us that finally pulled over to take our fare. Another two dozen or so and we would have started to worry.

Next thing I remember is waking up on the floor of Jason's living room the next morning. Well, afternoon, if you want to get technical about it. Head pounding, teeth in desperate need of a good brushing, and wait, why do I still have my shoes on?
Right. Time for a good, greasy, hangover-curing breakfast. Shannon recommended Governor's--it's a Dunedin institution, apparently. Governor's is right down the street from the Dunedin Church of Chris--I'm guessing that's one of your lower-tier, lesser-known religions in the pantheon of monotheistic faiths. Either that, or the sign at the Church of Christ is missing a "t." Our afternoon breakfast was top notch. God bless the genius who invented Hollandaise sauce! Those were the best Eggs Benedict I've ever had--full stop. Until about a half hour later, of course, when they turned on me. They seemed to settle like a cinder block in my stomach. I guess I should have seen it coming though. There's really no one to blame but myself. I mean, what else should I have expected but treason from a dish with such a moniker. I somehow managed not to lose my lunch (breakfast), but I felt fairly queasy for the remainder of the drive.

We pulled into Wanaka a couple hours later, thank Chris. I took a shower and proceeded to do little more than read a little of my book and sleep for the remainder of the day. I paid for it in spades on Sunday afternoon, but the rip roaring Saturday night in The Big Smoke was well worth it.


P.S. For those unfamiliar with rugby, "Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage" are the instructions given to the teams by the ref during every scrum.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Crouch, Touch, Pause, Engage

Last weekend I went road trippin' to Dunedin with friends Shannon, Mike, and Dean for the All Blacks test against France. Fully loaded with snacks and supplies, we set off for the three-hour drive early Saturday morning. It was nice to actually see the landscape this time around, as the majority of my first drive to Dunners about a month ago was done in the dark. Pretty country. Made one quick pit stop in Alexandra, the nearest town with a Telecom retailer, so I could buy a new cell phone to replace the one I left in the pocket of my jeans on laundry day earlier in the week. Apparently cell phones aren't built to withstand a good soak and spin. Who knew?

We arrived in "Sunny Dunnedin"--the highly ironic nickname bestowed on the city due to the infrequency in which it is actually sunny--to find it actually sunny! The weather was absolute bluebird in fact. That means not a cloud in the sky to you non Kiwi speakers. We took advantage of the brilliant weather and enjoyed a nice stroll around town for a couple hours. Then it was off to Jason's house for a good rest up for what was sure to be a big night. Jason is an old mate of Shannon's and Mike's, and he was gracious enough to put us up for the night. Good thing too, because with the ABs in town, the place was packed and accommodations could've proved difficult (and costly) to otherwise obtain.

Rested up and now dressed in our AB gear--all of us except Dean that is, who, as a Welshman, felt it his duty to wear his bright red Wales Rugby jersey--we walked down to the Octagon to catch a bus to Carisbrook Stadium, a.k.a. "The House of Pain," to join up with 30,000 some-odd other black-clad fans. The sell-out crowd, coupled with the fact this would be the last ever AB match at historic Carisbrook, made for an electric atmosphere. Everyone was all smiles entering the grounds, eagerly anticipating the forecasted forthcoming flaying of the French. I even heard mention a theory that, given the historical French penchant for surrender, they might just forfeit after the AB's pregame ritual, the Haka, and save everyone the formality of actually playing the game.

Would the AB's and their fan's overconfidence be their undoing? Would random girls try to kiss any of us at the bar later that night? Would we get turned away at the casino door at 2:00am for apparently, despite our best efforts, not approaching said door and it's accompanying doorman in a straight line? Would one of the ordinate number of Turkish cafes in Dunedin be open late enough to satisfy a late night fallafel craving? Would a taxi ever pick us up and take us home, or were we doomed to walk (read stagger) up that monster hill at 3:3o? Would we discover a new religion the following morning?

You'll have to come back for the next installment to find out, dear readers. I'm tired, and I'm going to bed.