Monday, March 06, 2006

What They Call Summer Love Is Happening in Spring

After dinner I walked to the end of Rangitoto Avenue, where my dad's Cousin Francie lives in an understatedly nice house that flows around corners and up and down and in ways that the building's outside appearance would lead you to believe were impossible. It's where I'm staying tonight.

I walked in a neighborhood strangely devoid of street lights, with only the glow of happy Auckland living rooms reflected beyond the front yards and to the sidewalk allowing me to differentiate between one house and the next. Though it was warm enough for people to be up and about, the street was deserted and I wondered if the humid last breath of this late summer day had perhaps driven everyone to sleep early. The one clue that anything else was alive in the neighborhood was the noise of crickets, which I noted sound exactly like they do in California. In the daylight, New Zealand affords travelers a different soundtrack altogether, what with a Darwin's rejects chorus of unfamiliar songbirds and abundant cicadas — or at least, what sound like cicadas or what sounds like how I think cicadas ought to sound. But at night, as near as I can tell so far, it's just crickets — New Zealand crickets, sounding exactly like American ones.

I had to remind myself that, for the purposes of my travel itinerary, today didn't count. Day zero. Our twelve-hour flight from San Francisco arrived in Auckland at about 5:15 this morning, and Francie's boyfriend Larry picked KrisDina and me up, a noble act appreciated all the more since the trip had reduced my body to a state not unlike that of a walking corpse that was quickly disintegrating into liquid. (Such a thing doesn't exist, I'm sure, but the comparison is nonetheless apt, believe me.) We slept immediately after getting here and I woke up at 11 a.m., initially not knowing where I was. Cousin Francie's house. In Auckland. New Zealand. On the other side of the world. I could have slept the clock around and I assumed KrisDina would be already dressed and waiting on me to get ready. Jet lag does funny things to your internal clock.

When we three were finally all equally awake, dressed, fed and conscious — and yes, the four states were achieved in that order — Larry took us on a drive through Auckland, a city I don't remember being in before though I know I have. The city is beautiful, and though it's genuinely unique — a special meeting of British colonial and Polynesian melting pot — it reminds me of California. People here move at the relaxed, picture postcard pace they do in Santa Barbara. And the city wraps around the ocean like how I imagine San Diego does. (Like Auckland, I have no real memory of San Diego, but I know I've been there.) Larry even took us to an overlook and former Maori hub called One Tree Hill, which tragically lost the one tree five or six years ago. In the end, he dumped us at the Auckland museum, where we learned only the info we could absorb into tidbit form. (At ten feet tall, the extinct moa, a large flightless bird similar to an ostrich or an emu towered over other New Zealand land dwellers.) We finished the city wandering around the Parnell area before returning back to Francie's for a Kiwi-style barbecue.

And though it isn't much, I'm particularly impressed with what we were able to do on our Day Zero, considering we were working on a minimum of sleep and could easily have spent the day in bed, prolonging our adjustment to New Zealand time. We hadn't planned anything for today, so the very presence of something that I could write about in this post pleases me.

What stands out most, however, is the crickets, which I can still hear, since it's warm enough that all the windows in the house are still open. I find that familiar electric drone of scores of chirping crickets very comforting at a time when I'm stinging from the desire to be with what I miss most. Cousin Francie, a woman I had heretofore known as "Francie the Berry Lady" is friendly and hospitable and wise in that she helped me realize how important this trip may be, in that it's my first chance to see where my dad came from with an adult eye. I'm ready and I'm genuinely excited.

Tomorrow, at least for what the itinerary needs to know, is day one.

End typing. Cue crickets.

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