Sunday, December 16, 2012

Weekend Down Memory Lane

Dec. 17, 2012  (Richard’s birthday!)

We’re spending part of our time in Auckland looking at different possibilities for tiki touring around the South Island – but we’re also enjoying everything that Auckland has to offer.

And with a sunny day, and warm weather, a wander through a few parks and time in the art museum seemed like a great Sunday activity.

There seems to be a park without a name surrounding the old clock tower building at the University of Auckland, a bit of a wild and untamed park with wandering paths, tall trees, mown lawns and uncombed flowerbeds overflowing their borders.  Plus the clock tower building, which had an old colonnade, somehow with the feel of a Regency abbey or convent, which was part of our route through the park.

Then into Albert Park, a very British and very manicured park, with symmetrically place flower beds and rows of palm trees and of course the fountain in the center of the paths.  The Auckland Art Gallery is in one corner of Albert Park, so this was an easy walk from our hotel (despite the fact that the park is actually a hilltop and much of the hill itself – but so much prettier than walking around the somewhat level route that circumnavigates the park).

We started with the show “Who Shot Rock and Roll” (and these are photos from the exhibited, collected from online - not my photos) – this has been touring the world, and is a retrospective collection of over 170 photos, from 1955 to the present, showing rock and roll in all its forms and stages – rockers before they were famous (a very baby-faced Elvis at a diner, or Jimi Hendrix in a tux doing backup), relaxing before or after a show, mid-show (and mid-mosh-pit), all that.  There were faves – Mick Jagger in a double-exposure with a cheetah, because it was deemed too dangerous when trying to get the cheetah to sit in the front of a sports car with Mick – Paul McCartney looking in the rearview mirror while driving down a London street, a pic taken by his wife Linda – Bob Dylan at a press conference holding a puppet as a prop – another Mick photo, post concert, looking exhausted on a stage covered in shoes thrown in tribute – John Lennon in New York – Chris Martin (Coldplay) looking pensive and almost like Rodin’s “The Thinker” – Bruce Springsteen smiling shyly for the camera, wondering why anyone wants to take his picture.  It was all there, captured by photographers who became famous through these photos, these moments of time caught on film and paper.  And so many singers whose lives were cut short, Janis Joplin, Cass Elliott, fellow Seattlites Jimi Hendrix and Kurt Cobain, Tupac, Biggy, Amy Winehouse, Michael Jackson, Lennon, and my favorite Beatle, George Harrison.  It was stimulating and  exciting, evoking an era in the lives of so many of us, and sad to see so many who have fallen.  It showed the highs and lows of rock’n’roll, the performances and the introspective moments, the brash posing and the vulnerability.

It was wonderful.

The rest of the Auckland Art Gallery – there were highs and lows – modern art that one wonders why it’s in a museum; portraits of Maori leaders painted in the 1800s, showing traditional tattoos and clothing; a collection of “Victorian paintings” in all their wonderful over-sentimentality, or, to be British about it, treacley.  (Or, in Yiddish, schmaltzy.) 

But, me being me, I had strange and interesting experiences.  In the modern section, I was looking around, and saw a tall thin man, accompanied by a museum staff woman.  He went to what I thought was just a wall (minimalist wall) and opened the door – turned out to be a room with a mirrored floor and ceiling, with striped walls, so that when you look in it appears to go on and on forever vertically, like you are walking into an empty elevator shaft – I looked in and immediately turned around, saying no, I just can’t do that.  So he and I had a long conversation about vertigo and dizziness and what triggers in, and stairs made out of grating, and elevators out of glass.  Then I moved along to another area, he and the woman staffer were talking about an installation of window frames and fluorescent lights, I added my take on it.  We chatted again.  Then another staff member came up and the woman introduced the man, saying, “You must meet the famous John Yadayada” (I didn’t catch the last name) and it dawned on me that this guy must be some well-known New Zealand artist – and there I was, chatting up with him like he’s just some shmoe in the museum.  Ooops!  Ah well, what do I know anyway?  I’m just an American tourist.  So I laughed at myself and quietly moved along.  (Not before hearing the dude tell the young staffer, in front of an installation of tiered glass bottles and vases, “Don’t you want to just crash into this?  Just like Peter Griffin!” – and of course, I had to laugh at that one, too.)

Second strange experience – as I went wandering into the Victorian overly-sweet painting section, I realized there was a young baritone singing in the arched gallery, doing operatic versions of sea chanteys or light opera like “I am the Pirate King” – he had a wonderful voice and the acoustics were great – but it just didn’t fit the paintings, which seemed to focus on women at home or couples in love.  Just a very weird juxtaposition of pink and white and frilly people with the deep voice singing of the sea.

Monday dawned grey and drizzly, so we’ve been taking care of business like researching the South Island and ways to travel around there, where to go next, all that.  We’ve pretty much decided to not extend our NZ visas, and we’ll head out at the end of January, probably heading to the southern part of Australia.  Not sure, but that’s the vague plan. 

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