Month: December 2007

Wanaka, New Zealand: Now All I Need Is Anorexia And A Serious Coke Habit

Tash (short for Natasha) and Sue work at clothing store in town called Soul Clothing. It’s that sort of modern, Abercrombie/Express type store that caters to an upper market crowd. Tash owns it and every year participates in Wanakafest, a town festival of performances, shows, and other festival-type things.

One night, soon after I first met Tash, Garth asks me over to the corner of the bar where he, Tash and Sue were chatting. He said that Tash wanted me to be a part of the fashion show that Soul Clothing is involved in every year during Wanakafest. I, as it turns out, was about to become a model.

Months later, as Wanakafest kicked off, Tash called and asked me to stop by the store to try on some outfits. Her theme this year was “metallic”, so we ended up going with a pair of dark jeans, a black shirt and a thin white tie. The “metallic” aspect of the outfit was kinda lost on me, other people had more metallurgy-inspired clothing, but hey, what do I know.

My runway-strutting partner was going to be Jenny, one of Tash and Sue’s close friends. And in that pairing there’s another example of that strange Wanaka-ness: When I first came to town and stayed at The Lodge, Jenny was working part time there as a housekeeper. Garth was also participating, as he did last year, and his partner was his then-girlfriend (now-fiancee), Kirsten.

On Wednesday, the day before the show, we got together at the town center and practiced our catwalking. The girls lined up backstage on one side, the boys on the other. Each pair would walk out, meet at the center of the stage and pause just before the runway, walk down the platform and pause again, turn, walk back up to the main stage and out to the wings, pause again, back to the center of the stage, pause one final time and then walk off stage. Just as the exiting couple was disappearing behind the curtains, another couple would emerge. When the last couple made that final pause, instead of walking offstage, they would walk back down the runway, followed by everyone else. We would reach the end and turn outwards and walk back up, past our fellow models. Then we would all stand together in a line on stage before exiting. It wasn’t as complicated as the description.

We practiced a few times and then had to get off stage to make way for another group.

The next night was the big night, and I was actually quite nervous. As good as I am with public speaking, I still get some serious butterflies right up to the final moment. Garth was running the small cash bar there, so I came early and had a few drinks with him before we suited up.

Finally, the moment arrived and we were called backstage to get lined up. As the fast-paced, electronic, techno music started pumping, my heart raced along with it. I mean, what the @#$%?! Modelling?? Really?!

Garth walked out first and got a great reception, with a bunch of whoops and whistles. Jenny and I were the last couple (hey, gotta end on a high note, right?), and soon it was our turn. I took a deep breath, and stepped out.

I managed to put a rather calm, smirk on my face to counter the feelings of total astonishment, and I think it worked quite well. Jenny and I met at the center stage and walked down. I must have had some fans in the audience because people were shouting, whistling and clapping. We did our little turns on the catwalk (oh come on, you know I had to …), and before I knew what was happening we were all standing shoulder-to-shoulder and making our grand exit.

After the show we took some pictures in the changing room, had a couple more drinks and I headed back to work. With the purchase of a fashion show ticket, you were entitled to a free drink at Barluga, so there was going to be a serious rush soon.

Maddy and Jess were working the bar and they doodled some “pictures” of me doing my modelling thing. There was the obligatory reference to “Blue Steel”, of course.

We got slammed by people after a free drink, and the night quietened down aftewards. The next day my friend Sam texted me saying there’s a picture of me in the newspaper from the fashion show. I stopped by the store and picked up a copy. The Otago Daily Times (a regional publication) had done a special pullout section on fashion, and there was a large feature about the Wanakafest fashion show. And, sure enough, it included a very large picture of me in the center. Ladies and gentlemen, I had become a published model.

So, in Wanaka I have been a gardener, builder, fruit picker, warehouse clerk, garbageman, bouncer, bartender, and now, model. What next? A very drunk girl at the bar one night asked me if I would be a stripper at her friend’s bachelorette party or, at the least, a topless bartender.

Relax, although the money would be very good, I declined the offer … ahem, yeah … I declined.

Wanaka, New Zealand: People Think I’m Gay. And There’s Something Very Wrong With That.

It started in college. My friend and neighbour Jesse was throwing a party with her flatmates: two other chicks and a gay guy. In her own words, it was “a gay party.” Being broke college students, my friends and I went next door anyway, because there was a keg of beer involved. Of course, my friends hugged that keg like a piece of driftwood on the open seas and avoided contact with anyone else at the party. On the other hand, I mingled. My friends later fled back to the sanctuary of our own townhouse, but I ended up talking to Jesse, her flatmates and a couple other friends well after most other people went home. I got into a rather passionate conversation with one guy about scotch, and we started rattling off our favorite brands, preferred drinking methods, etc. When he invited me back to his place to try a particular single malt, I got a rather rude wake-up call, and quickly excused myself. It was, after all, an open invitation.

Even worse was during my three weeks in San Francisco with my brother, after which several of my brothers friends asked him what it was like to have a gay brother. And then they would actually argue the point with him (more on heated arguments regarding my sexuality later). I’m pretty sure many of them still think I’m a homosexual. And I think they may have actually convinced him too.

After one particular weekend when I was mistaken for a gay man on three separate instances, I consulted with my friends back home about this gay vibe I seemed to be emitting. The only real response (not counting Peter, who said “I’d do you”) was from Rebecca, who told me “you can dress, BG. And the burden of a man who can dress is that some folks will think that he is a homosexual. You register with my heterosexual friends as being straight, so don’t sweat it!.” Can’t argue with that!

Before I left on this journey of discovery, I met these two Yorkshire girls at a pub in Houston. I told them of my plans to travel to Australia, and one piece of advice they gave me was to avoid wearing my brown Kangol hat. Combined with my earrings, they didn’t think it would be received … heterosexually. And I did actually leave it behind when I left the country.

Now, you all know of my experience at World Bar in Sydney, when a girl from Philadelphia just HAD to introduce me to her friend, because I’d be perfect for him.

But things just got worse in New Zealand.

One night at the bar, a rather shy girl came up to me, leaned in across the bar and asked, “Um … Can I ask you something?” I leaned in close so I could hear her and asked her what she needed. “So … do you know where I can find some girl-on-girl action?”

I chuckled, “I’m sorry?!” “Do you know where there’s some girl-on-girl action around town?” “Umm …. you know, I actually don’t know.” “Really? Come on, I’m sure you know of some!” “OK, I’ll tell you what, I’ll ask around and see what I can find. But if you find some, PLEASE do let me know.” She sighed and walked away from the bar.

She was so sure that I could find her some secret lesbian love society that I started believing it myself. There has to be some somewhere …

She came back a little while later. “So …? Any news on what we were talking about before?” “… you mean the girl-on-girl action?” “Yeah” “No, sorry, I just don’t know where you can find any.” Then I used a line that left even Garth asking me if I really said it: “But I’ll make a deal with you. You see what you can do, I’ll see what I can do, and we’ll meet back at my place at the end of the night.” She actually smiled and said, “Deal.” Ohhh, people write dirty magazine articles about these nights.

The night finally calmed down enough for me to quietly and slowly approach Garth. I had a mental flashback to that pub in Ouse, when I turned to Jake and told him I had just been asked to father a love-child (also lesbian-inspired … strange). “Hey, see that girl over there,” I said to Garth and pointed down the length of the bar, “she just asked me if I knew of any girl-on-girl action around town.” When I told him what I said in reply, he doubled over with laughter.

I thought she had left and was pleasantly surprised to see her sitting by the outside fireplace towards the end of the night. “Hey! I thought you had left,” I said while collecting empty glasses and bottles. “No, I’m still here. Hey, do you remember what we were talking about inside?” She was sitting with a guy who looked either fantastically plastered or completely uninterested. “The girl-on-girl action, of course, how could I forget.” “So? Any progress?”

OK, now I was just confused. Did I look like some sexual deviant who kept tabs on all hedonistic activities in this small town? Are bartenders supposed to know this type of thing? Am I not getting certain key memos?

I finally broke it down for her. “Listen, I’m sorry, but I just don’t know where you can find that in Wanaka.” “Come on, of course you know!” “NO, really, I have no idea.” Then she said something that took the whole conversation, and the night, down a unfortunately familiar path.

“Yeah you do! Come on, you’re gay, of course you know where I can get some.”

I then proceeded to actually argue with her about not being gay. “Yeah you are, you’re totally gay!” “No I’m not!!” To begin with, I couldn’t even believe, again, that I had to argue the point, more than simply saying “I’m not gay”, full stop, end of conversation. It even got quite heated at one point. “Look, I will take you into that bathroom and prove I’m not gay right now, if necessary.” “Wait, you mean you’re really not gay?”

Finally, she was getting it. “Yes, I mean it. I’m really not gay.” “Oh my god, I told you all that stuff because I thought you were gay!” “Well, … ” “I totally opened up to you cause I thought you were gay! That’s so embarrassing!!” Convinced I was definitely not going to get the opportunity to prove my manhood that night, I walked away after one last, parting shot.

“Yeah, that is pretty embarassing.”

The general consensus is that my earrings aren’t doing it, since I have both pierced and that look is cool again. It could be the hat, but I wasn’t wearing my hat that night (when I went home in March I shoved the hat in my backpack. I don’t care what people say about it, I love that thing). I was in my standard bartending digs — dark trousers, black shirt — which in the darkness of the bar wouldn’t look too impressive, so Rebecca’s theory was controlled. So I’m still baffled as to why I’m showing up as a blip on that girl’s — and so many others’ — gay-dar.

When my brother learned of the most recent attack on my heterosexuality, he gave me two options: 1) Spend some time the next time it happens to find out exactly what it is that makes them think you’re gay; Or 2) just be gay, dude.

Thanks. Let’s call the latter ‘Plan Z’.