As you can imagine, I was still pretty hungover when I got to Wellington. Luckily, Jess was there quickly to pick me up from the airport. Jess had just moved to the capital city to work as a statistical analyst for Statistics New Zealand. She was living in a serviced apartment while waiting to move into a more permanent one. After dropping my stuff off we took a walk into town and had dinner at a Chinese-fusion restaurant. Jess’ flatmate Nick was also out, so we walked to the city mall area and wandered around, looking for a place to grab a drink. We met Nick and found an Irish pub. Jess and I split a bottle of wine, Nick grabbed a pint.
We hadn’t been sitting for 5 minutes when a very drunk and obviously gay man with a backpack approached us and asked, “Hey I don’t know you guys but do you mind if I sit with you?” Ohhh if you so much as ask me if …
Nick was quite enthusiastic about having this strange gentleman sit with us so he offered him a chair and soon he was asking me about what I was doing in the country, my plans, my background, etc. He even tried to show me how similar we were: I had spent my life studying computers, received an engineering degree from a top US university and worked for NASA. He was on social welfare, and was considering taking an introductory IT class. See? It’s basically the same thing.
Soon, two of Strange Man #1’s friend’s arrived: Strange Man #2 and Tiff. Jess, myself and SM1 were speaking, with Jess desperately trying to avoid answering SM1’s deep questions on religion and ethics. Nick and SM2 were really getting into the modern rock music coming from inside the bar, enough to drive Nick to belt out some air-piano on the table top. Tiff started telling Nick how much she wanted to learn to play piano and if he would teach her. She would exchange him for massages, as she claimed to be a massage therapist. Before I knew what was happening, Tiff silently got up, walked up behind Nick and removed his sports coat. He (and I) thought she wanted to try it on. She hung it on the back of a chair and started giving Nick a massage. All the while, he and SM2 were singing along to bands like Coldplay, with Nick on the air-piano and SM1 on the air-acoustic guitar. It was embarrassing. And really weird. And yet for me it was so funny, I wanted to laugh out loud and point at each person there.
SM1 was really making an effort to rope Jess into one of those really-deep-yet-meaningless drunk conversations on something waaaayyy too serious for a bar — one of Jess’ biggest pet peeves — so she was noticably aggravated. She accidentally knocked her glass of wine over and spilled it on her shirt. “OK, that’s it, time to go home.” We said our goodbyes and left the drunken group composed of 50% strange men, 25% strange woman, and Nick.
It turns out that Nick and Tif would start dating, and their on-and-off relationship would go on for several months. According to the many stories from Jess, it was arguably a relationship weirder and more awkward than Ross and Rachel.
While Jess was at work the next day I wandered the city. Since I had recently dropped my phone against a wall, I called the folks and let them know I had reached Wellington.
That afternoon I went to the modern art museum and saw a great video exhibit by artist Tracey Moffatt called Love and Doom. It’s a collage of clips from a variety of modern and classic movies set to an independent soundtrack. The former half was my favorite, taking the viewer through the many stages of Love, from attraction, seduction and committment, to adultery and … well, murder. She’s an Australian artist, but if it ever comes to a gallery nearby, definitely check it out.
That night Jess and I got takeout from a Turkish restaurant near her apartment and watched Little Miss Sunshine. Wellington was growing on me. It reminded me alot of San Francisco, one of my favorite US cities, except it was small enough that you could easily walk it end to end.
Stay tuned for my trip to the Wellington Zoo with Jess and her sister Jen, and the story of how I would find myself back in New Zealand within a fortnight.