The Trip of a Lifetime – Land of the Long White Cloud – Aotearoa – Kare Kare – Part Four

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Music producer Nigel Horrocks at his former Kare Kare home

I originally thought I could condense my entire week in New Zealand into one blog post.  Ha!  I packed a month’s worth of fun into the seven days I was there.  Kare Kare Beach was one of the highlights of my trip, and the series of events that happened there were truly surreal.

I’ll begin with the Jane Campion film “The Piano”.  This New Zealand-made film garnered no less than three Academy Awards in 1993.  That was one year before I headed over to the very shore where it was filmed. I saw “The Piano” at the quaint Nickelodeon Theater in Santa Cruz, and I’ll never forget my reaction to its shocking ending.  The opening scenes filmed on Kare Kare beach in which actress Holly Hunter landed there were intense and foreboding.  The weather looked cold, grim and overcast.  Little did I know I’d be there – life takes us to unexpected places, that’s for sure.

When John and I made our way to Kare Kare on his motorcycle, there were scattered showers.  Luckily John was a skilled motorcyclist and he smoothly navigated the windy road.  (I was still nervous and I clutched him so tightly it was a wonder he could breathe!) We made the pilgrimage to Kare Kare because Crowded House had rented a house that overlooked the beach.  It was in that designer home that the band recorded their album “Together Alone” with the producer Youth, the bassist of Killing Joke.  (This unique house had previously been rented by the actor Harvey Keitel when he was on-location filming “The Piano”.)

I didn’t expect to see the Kare Kare house up close, but on a whim John drove us up to the entrance and he pulled off to the side of the driveway.  To my embarrassment, a man stood there staring at us.  He wasn’t angry, like I had assumed he would be for our trespassing.  He drew us into a friendly conversation and inquired why we were there in the rain.  He invited us into his home for tea, and John gave him the groupie details.  We discovered that he was Nigel Horrocks, the owner of the house.  “I am impressed you came here in there rain!” Nigel remarked.  “You must come back here tomorrow night for my party.  It’ll be a music industry shindig!”  I was slightly in shock that Nigel would invite us to his event, but I welcomed his hospitality with open arms.

We took John’s car the following evening back to Kare Kare.  Nigel’s driveway was festooned with lit tiki torches.  After we walked inside I spotted a kava kava drink station.  I helped myself to some of the brew and it was my first time imbibing it. The drink made me a little woozy, and I relaxed somewhat in the crowd of strangers.  It was early but there were already around sixty people milling about.

I looked over toward’s Nigel’s cramped kitchen and I almost passed out.  Less than five feet away from me was Neil Finn.  Now, if you are not a Neil Finn groupie, imagine the musician (or actor or scientist or whoever!) you most admire in the world.  You are within spitting distance of this person.  What would you do?  I freaked out.   There was no way I was going to chit chat with him  I did find it rather symbolic that I saw him in the kitchen.  Neil has frequently written about kitchens in his songs; I’m not sure of the backstory, so I’m not the best Crowded house fan by any means, but it seemed very fitting to spot him the tiny kitchen.

There were other musicians strolling about drinking wine or kava who I  sensed were famous in New Zealand.  Unfortunately I was clueless as to who they were, except for the Crowded House keyboardist Mark Hart and Split Enz keyboardist Eddie Rayner.  A television camera crew was in attendance, and I found myself on the New Zealand news later that evening.  (John kindly made a video of the segment, which I still have to this day.  I’m shown in profile holding my kava kava cup, speaking with another guest.)

A makeshift stage was set up in the living room, and several performers took advantage of the well-heeled crowd to sing, including the singer Emma Paki.  I was very impressed with the talent I heard that evening.  At one point nature called, and I took a breather in the bathroom.  I got a kick out of using the same toilet that the Crowded House musicians and Harvey Keitel used.  What can I say?  I’m easily pleased by such details.

One moment I won’t forget is when party guest “Jaz” Colman, co-founder of the band Killing Joke, took the stage.  I’m not sure if he had too much wine or whiskey or kava kava (or all three beverages combined, perhaps) but he was in a heated state.  He started yelling at all of us, calling us “C*nts!”  I was a bit offended, and slightly disturbed, but it was also a comical moment.  I guess you had to be there! (Someone did take the microphone gently away from him.)

It was getting late and the sky was pitch black, save for a beautiful full moon. Outside in the backyard there was a roaring bonfire and a small group of Maori log drummers playing.   The sound was intense and so was the vibe.  I found myself talking loudly with a friendly man who looked familiar.  John came over to take me aside.  “Do you know who that is, Dyane?” he asked excitedly.  “No,” I replied, wracking my brain.  “It’s Paul Crowther!” I shook my head and could not believe it. Paul “Emlyn” Crowther was one of the drummers of Split Enz from 1974-1976. Thousands of miles away from where John and I stood, in a Santa Cruz room lay my albums Crowther played on along with videos of him during his wacky Enz tenure.  Because he wasn’t famous like his colleague Neil Finn, I was able to relax and enjoy talking with him.  I returned to his side and he invited me to dance to the hypnotic-sounding drummers.  We joined hands and it was a magical moment.

John and I had brought sleeping bags with us, and we did not want to impose on Nigel so we walked down to the beach.   The potent kava kava brew made for an excellent sleep aid.  Luckily we weren’t subjected to any rain during the night.  We made sure to sleep in a safe spot so that we weren’t overtaken by the tide.  It was an unforgettable time for us, and I’ll always be grateful to Nigel Horrocks for creating an extraordinary experience for two young, ardent music fans.

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The Trip of a Lifetime – The Land of the Long White Cloud – Part One

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Sometimes I find myself fixating on bipolar disorder to the point where I shut out everything else that matters in my life, i.e. paying attention to my kids, listening to my husband, or the most mundane of all: cleaning the decrepit house and paying bills.

Yesterday I was feeling “bipolared out”.  I was online too much which gave me ample opportunity to notice how many other bipolar-themed blogs and Twitterers have hundreds or thousands of subscribers and sleek designs.  I felt like a sack of beans next to them.  (Comparisons really are odious.) Sure, I only started blogging regularly a couple months ago and I haven’t promoted myself properly, but still…I got caught up in the “Your bank account is way bigger than my bank account” syndrome.  That kind of defeatist thinking won’t help out anyone, particularly myself.

I realized that I needed a little vacation from thinking about bipolar disorder.  It didn’t need to be an elaborate trip.  All it would require was my focusing on a separate time in my life when I didn’t even know what the word “bipolar” meant.  Hell, the vacation I found myself reminiscing about occurred when “bipolar” was referred to as “manic depression”.  (Yes, I’m dating myself!  I’m turning 44 next month.)

I talk a good game about how there’s so much more to me than bipolar, but I don’t incorporate that philosophy into my days enough.  Truth be told, sometimes I am still in disbelief that I have this damn metal illness and it has been over seven years since I was diagnosed.  Talk about denial…but it’s understandable, isn’t it?

Anyway, after I decided to write about a non-mental-health subject, I felt a spark of excitement.

Last night I brainstormed about what to write about.  I used my Kindle to do one of my favorite activities: search for recently published books about my favorite subjects.  One topic I’ve enjoyed learning about, but that I hadn’t thought about for ages was New Zealand.   Yes, New Zealand.  The Maori word for it is Aotearoa, which means “Land of the Long White Cloud”. (I love that phrase!)  I was introduced to New Zealand through music, namely via my favorite bands Split Enz and Crowded House.  The founders of Split Enz (Phil Judd and Tim Finn) and one member of Crowded House (Neil Finn) hail from the North Island of New Zealand.  Over the years as I listened to their music, I noticed how some of their songs featured New Zealand.  They sang about the significance their country had upon themselves.  I couldn’t help but become enraptured with this intriguing-sounding country that had such an impact upon my beloved musicians and their music.

I remember watching a riveting film, Jane Campion’s “The Piano”, in Santa Cruz during my college days. It was filmed in New Zealand and it won three Academy Awards  A pivotal scene in that film took place on the imposing Kare Kare Beach.  Little did I know I’d be walking along that same shoreline in the years to come.

When I turned twenty-four, I worked full-time as an office manager at a special event production company.  I was in a troubled, passionless relationship and we broke up.  I was long overdue due for a vacation, so soon after my break-up I took two weeks off. I used my brand-new credit card to travel solo to Australia for a week and then over to New Zealand the following week.  I chose Australia because I had a pen pal in Melbourne who graciously offered her family home for my week’s long stay gratis. We had never met in person, but we had been corresponding for years.  In New Zealand I would stay at youth hostels in Auckland and elsewhere around the North Island.

I was a little worried about the lengthy plane ride.  The previous year I had an upsetting experience on a plane that flew from San Francisco to Kansas.  I had panic attacks during heavy turbulence.  Ironically, I had loved flying up to that point, so much so that I actually started attending ground school to get my pilot’s license.  Because of the Kansas flight I wondered if I would be fit to fly the twelve hours from San Francisco to Melbourne.  I didn’t ponder that too much, thankfully, and I packed my backpack to the hilt.  Friends dropped me off at the airport, and I hopped on Polynesian Air.  I had located a discount price for my round-trip ticket (this was hard to do in the pre-internet days!) but it was still incredibly expensive to fly.  I threw caution to the wind, which was easy to do when using one’s very first credit card.  Charging that amount of money didn’t quite seem real.

Well, the plane flight to Australia was stressful, but not in the way I had foreseen, i.e. bumpiness or mechanical failures.  Oh no. There were several alarming problems that took place both during the flight and upon touchdown that I will cover in tomorrow’s post due to the fact that my computer is about to lose power.  Until then, I wish you a bon voyage whether you are making a trip to your local Safeway or if you’re headed for exotic, distant shores!