Sunday, 25 January 2009

Planetary alignment

What a great week I've had, peaking in a 24 hour period that I will never forget.

On Tuesday night the man whose work has had such an influence on my life, yet who I never thought I'd get to see, played in Wellington. Tickets sold out in just a few hours (which must be some kind of a record for an old person's concert) and from experience I was there right when they went on sale to get the best seats I could get - and they were pretty decent. Leonard Cohen was in town, and received a standing ovation as he energetically ran onto the stage, defying his age.

The concert was profoundly beautiful. I laughed, I cried, and the whole time Leonard kept us in a place where the tempo was slightly faster, the mood more joyous and the pitches more harmonious; it was Leonard Cohen-land. The almost three hours were about giving - Leonard gave the crowd his beautiful music and words, he gave his musicians lots of space to play, and he thanked the audience for keeping his work alive for so many years. He was so incredibly humble. I've never heard his back-up singers sound so sweet.

That night the pinnacle of the concert was reached. Reviewer of everyone who's anyone that comes our way Simon Sweetman put it best in his article:

It's hard to put this concert into words, so I'll just say something I have never said in a review before and will never say again: this was the best show I have ever seen.

The next morning I woke up and due to the intense emotional experience of the night before (and possibly the Webb sisters who made up two of three of his back-up singers) I felt like I was in-love. My radio was switched on automatically to wake me up to news of the new President of the USA. He may not be perfect, but Obama is a unifier, and most importantly he's not George W Bush. The world breathed a joyous sigh of relief.

In Leonard Cohen's words in the song Anthem:

The birds they sang
at the break of day
Start again
I heard them say
Don't dwell on what
has passed away
or what is yet to be.

Ah the wars they will
be fought again
The holy dove
She will be caught again
bought and sold
and bought again
the dove is never free.

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That's how the light gets in.

Eventually I made it out of bed and onto the seat of my bike to get to work. Though every day and mundane, I new the day was a special one, and nothing could spoil my mood. Drifting in and out of thoughts and hazards along the waterfront a group of people standing by Frank Kitts Park bumped into my attention. Three of them were dressed normally, but one, an older man, was dressed in a fine suit and hat. I knew straight away the only person it could be, and that I had to stop and say hi. The only time our paths will probably cross. I don't like stopping famous people, and I know the conversation is usually short and light, but I couldn't miss this chance. When the other fans stopped pestering him I went up to him and said hi.


"Hey man." I Shook his hand.

"How're you?"


"I saw your concert last night."

"I'm glad you could make it."

"I thought you were so sincere and humble."

"Thank you!"

"I hope you enjoy your time in Wellington."

"Thank you!" And then he (or should I say He) continued on his lonely walk.

As I recovered from being star-struck I knew that though I could not see them, the planets on that very moment were certainly aligned.

Saturday, 10 January 2009

After a break I'm back with a vengence

Kia ora 2009 and readers of my blog - whom I hope will grow in numbers, both through word of mouth, and breeding. I hearby commit to you that 2009 will be a year of regular - though not neccessarily prolific - blogging. I will continue to cross-post onto where I see fit.

A couple of thoughts to start the year from my new years road trip, which took me to Rhythm and Vines in Gisborne, and north to the Coromandel afterwards.

1) We have a serious drug problem in this country in many ways (and remember, when I use the word "drug" when referring to recreational drugs, this always includes alcohol, which is the worst of the worst.) Having travelled around quite a bit last year, I saw that it's the same in many senses in many countries, but stastically we are one of the worst countries in terms of alcohol abuse. We just drink so much so quickly, and among many people, we lack the ability to have a beer or two or a glass of wine for the enjoyment of it. It's all or nothing. Many of us - especially of my age, but definitely not exclusively - also lack the ability to think beyond drinking as the only option for a Friday or Saturday night. I have my own opinions about how to deal with this - and raising the drinking age is not one of them. We need a shift in our thinking, especially in seeing alcohol as the harmful drug that it is. We should have fun with drugs, expand our relationships and our minds, but not over-indulge.

2) Greater wealth and the accumulation of stuff is the driver of so many people - Whangamata being case and point at this time of year. It definitely is not the driver for me, but drives our current economy. We need to snap out of the dream and focus on what's really important, and realistic. Our environment is in dire straights, but there is currently enough to go around. So freakin' share already!

(The picture above is at Whangamata harbour. What is it that you desire in the photo - the jetski and the "biscuit", or the pristine environment, and the protection of the rare and sensitive ecosystem below the water? What do you think we'll be thinking in 50 years time? It's about having fun, but not over-indulging.)

(Due to a lack of enthusiasm for photography this year, above and below are from a year ago at BW Campgrounds, where my friends and I stayed again in Gisborne for Rhythm and Vines. It was pretty much the same though. Above is New Years day and one of the casualities recuperating from the night before. Below is the workers, paid about $14 an hour this time, predominently brown, many quite young, cleaning up mountains of waste for rich white folk).

Disclaimer: I go to Rhythm and Vines because it's such a huge gathering of my friends and people I know. There's good music and lots of good times. But I ache when I see the mountains of waste from our throw-away existence, even if I may not show it so much at the time.

May your 2009 bring you greater consciousness in your relationships and your understanding of all those things that are bigger than us.