June 10, 2004
New Zealand, Day 1
We quickly unpacked, washed up, and headed out for breakfast at Mecca, Wystan's "office" at the bottom of High Street. The waitresses are Brazilian, for reasons I do not yet know. Max ordered field mushrooms on spinach on whole wheat toast, topped with melted cheese, with bacon on the side. He had a latte. I had a long black. We sat outside near a heater, which the waitress turned on at our request, to take the edge off the chilly morning air, as we read The New Zealand Herald and chatted.
After checking out bookstores and Workshop (none of the great functional clothes they used to make), we went up to a law office where one of Max's large quatrefoils hangs. Then, a stop at the bank and at Columbia for wonderful coffee--three kinds, plus decaf. Everywhere we went thereafter we brought with us wafts of freshly roasted and ground coffee.While Max did business at the gallery, I stepped out to have a look at Fingers. Now about 2:00 p.m., it was time for lunch at Reuben's Cafe, which adjoins the new wing of the Auckland Art Gallery. We shared the roasted carrot salad: thin long slices of roasted carrot, thin long slices of baby zucchini, thin round slices of cucumber, kalamata olives, arugula, feta (more like chevre, as it was creamy rather than crumbly), croutons, and roasted plum tomato, with a vinaigrette. Delicious!
We came home, regrouped, and headed out again to meet Wystan for coffee at 4:00 p.m. at Slurp, a cafe in the new university building. From there, we went to the apartment where Cathy and Anthony are staying, the upper floor of an Elam gallery, where photography students were having a exhibition of their work. Max left Anthony a note and we walked to New World Food on Victoria Street to stock up on feijoas (pineapple guava), last of the season, if indeed we can find any, passion fruit, tree tomatoes, which are in season, Vogel's bread, oatmeal (we brought maple syrup, but our bags were searched by airport security and mysteriously, half the bottle was gone), yogurt, some delicious New Zealand cheese, and marmalade.
New World Food is an enormous supermarket and very expensive, even by American standards. I did manage to find good deals on kiwi fruit, winter squash, rhubarb, and that New Zealand speciality, green lipid mussels. Everything is so fresh and flavorful. I bought organic eggs, blue cheese, radishes, yellow fingerling yams, purple kumera, swiss chard (silverbeet) and such essentials as black peppercorns, extra virgin cold pressed olive oil, wine vinegar, and such.
Quickly steamed the mussels, which were voluptuous and succulent, and served them with lemon. I stewed the rhubarb. We've invited Anthony and Cathy to have dinner with us tomorrow night at the apartment, a good opportunity to introduce them to all this produce. I'll buy a nice bottle of red wine, a good New Zealand pinot noir.
I'll stay home the better part of tomorrow, Wednesday, and write. Thursday I am off to Wellington, with a full schedule.
June 07, 2004
We arrived at the flat in Auckland around 6:00 a.m. on Tuesday June 8. We had left our New York loft at 11:00 a.m. on Sunday June 6, so that means about 26 hours in transit door to door. As we stepped out of the airport, crisp moist air hit our skin. We took the Supershuttle to the flat. The slate sky turned silver and then a winter yellow as we approached downtown Auckland.
We are in the artist-in-residence flat, the "penthouse," in the former "Crippled Children" building, slated for demolition, where Elam freshman art students now have their studios. A narrow balcony runs along two sides and there is noisy construction going on all around. Max is sitting outside, catching a cone of warm sunlight, smoking a cigarillo he bought at the duty free shop in the airport.
So extended was the travel and so out of sync our circadian rhythms that we slept through airline meals and opted instead to share a Cuban sandwich at JFK and a Wolfgang Puck Chinois Salad (Napa cabbage, crisp wonton strips, honey dressing) at the Los Angeles airport. We managed to read the whole Sunday New York Times between naps and books we bought in a JFK bookshop, a war novel for Max and Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Appoach to Punctuation for me.