After 45 shows and 2,200 kilometers I have left the mighty south island and journeyed north. I have been tirelessly trying to find the time to write this post and that time has consistently evaded me. I pack, unpack, meet, greet, play, re-pack, email papers, radio, potential hosts, past hosts, transfer data from one various electronic device to another, charge video camera, charge audio recorder, headlamp, computer, wash clothes, hang clothes to dry, cleaning of the body, stretching of the body and filling of the body with food. Lots of food! There was, I believe, a day where I consumed 6 scones and 3 muffins. Not something I’m proud of but it feels good to admit it. Between the biking and the aforementioned this and thats there is seldom time to share my experiences with the rest of the world by way of these intergalactic info rockets. Oh well. Doing my best.
Just been on the north island for three days now in the major bustling metropolis of Wellington. Feels like San Francisco only very far from San Francisco. There are hip young people everywhere walking up and down hills. I think I have met as many people in their 20’s in the last three days as I have in the entire journey through the south island. Apparently young kiwi’s don’t much stick around in the small towns, until they come back to take over the farm or the family business. Seems the yoot tend to congregate in the big big with the other yoot.
When being interviewed for papers I am consistently asked ” so what’s the weirdest craziest experience you’ve had?”. Other then the entirety of getting on a bike and pedaling around a foreign country playing shows in peoples houses, nothing much comes to mind on the crazy, awkward or uncomfortable front. I have not been drugged, misled, bamboozled, teased, poisoned or even chased. The biggest surprise continues to be the top-notch, blue-chip, first-rate goodness I encounter from each host and audience. However in the last few weeks there have been some particularly resplendent moments and encounters. These are in no particular order.
1. 4 year old Taroa (albatross in Maori) sat at the base of my feet for a whole show completely engaged and present. 4 years old! The next day she returned to my hosts house to show me her toy unicorn. When she approached the door to leave she turned to me and pensively took a moment. She then smiled and said “Gideon I love you”. I am breathless and wobbly legged. I tell her I love her too. She and her unicorn walked out the door. Little angel left my face swollen with a smile. A few days later she asked her mom “is Gideon family?”. A woman from the local Westport paper was at the show the night Taroa was there. She printed an article the next day with a picture of me singing with Taroa at my feet looking up. It looked like it was just me and her. Completely captured a moment and her undeniable sweetness and curiosity. That paper clipping is a genuine treasure.
2. I arrived at the Newton Livery owned by Stephen McGrath. Stephen looks like a cross between Santa Clause and Buckskin Bill, the Idaho solitary who built a kingdom by his lonesome on the middle fork of the salmon river in Idaho and invented several rifle boring apparatus. Buckskin Bill was once asked how he knew how to do so many things? He built everything……..EVERYTHING! Buckskin responded “well… when you spend enough time alone, thinking about anything, you can figure it out.” I love that. Stephen lives off the grid, generates his own power, raises and breeds Clydesdale horses and built his own horse drawn wagon. Wooden wagon! That’s a wagon made out of wood to be pulled by horses! Just want to make sure I’m understood here. He takes trips with it into the hills sometimes for months at a time. After I played a show for him and his friends and his lovely woofer Linda, he took me for a ride on the wagon. It was a big honor and quite a to do getting the gigantihorses all saddled up. Next thing I know we are galloping through the country side. In truth a horse person would not call it a full gallop, but when you’re from New York City and you’re cruisin on a wooden wagon behind beasts of inconceivable mass you feel like your galloping. I was just too happy that day. Too god damn happy! I am now convinced cycling is a rather lame way to tour an album. Horseback or horse wagon is the way to go. Why ride a bike and get there in a week when you can ride a horse and get there in a month? I hope to someday do a story/music/magic//scultpure tour with Stephen and his wagon through this beautiful country. I would also like to tour Norway by Hang Glider, Germany by pogo stick and Indonesia by row boat.
3. After a night in a house bus in the Tadmor valley I made my way to John and Sally’s in Ngotimoti. I was introduced to them by Vicki whom I met at Anna’s place in Hawea Flatt. I was pointed in Anna’s Direction by Paul who was at Brads house in Invercargill. Brad gave me a call cause his friend heard me on the radio and thought Brad would like to host a show. I got on the radio by emailing Kirsten after Sylvia of Ashburton recommended her radio program. Last night I finally met Kirsten at Paul’s house. I was introduced to Paul by way of Moodie who was room mates with Juan in Dunedin. Got connected to them through Bear who was buddies with my brother Isaac back in Nome Alaska.
So, I arrived to John and Sally’s home through their garden. Imagine the shire, but with stone sculptures, vegetables and fruit trees everywhere. I made it up a wee hill to the house. John was the first to see me. Big beautiful smile. He came to me, shook my hand and drew me in. Some of you may know I have a poor track record in judging whether to shake someones hand or hug their body. It was a mute point with John. Next thing I know his nose is against my nose. His hand in mine. Nose to nose is a Maori greeting, the origins and meaning of which I know not, but it’s always struck me as a lovely way to say hello…. Actually google just told me it’s called the Hongi and the breath of life is exchanged and intermingled during the greeting. Our noses and foreheads touched then separated then touched for a longer time. It ended with a big welcome kiss from john which landed on my sweaty bike neck. He didn’t seem to mind or notice, he was all smiles, molten spirit flowers ebulliently rushing from every feature on his face. A face that undoubtedly carries a story for every stunning and perfect wrinkle on it. John is not Maori but possessed an impressive knowledge of Maori culture and customs. He has also learned the language to an impressive degree. I had so many questions for him. Wanted to hear about his studies and experiences. Five minutes with him you could tell he knows his country dirt to sky and beast to man. We had an all too short amount of time together. He was off in the morning to guide a walk through the Tasman. His partner Sally was every bit as warm and intriguing and I was blessed to spend some time with her and their son Zander. Sally is a masterful weaver of Harekeke (flax) baskets. She weaves them together in traditional Maori style. She explained to me that she weaves a story into each basket, something in her life or someone else’s that she’s been thinking about or working with. I watched her make a beautiful basket from scratch all day long. It was very special to witness someones craft take shape like that. Straight from the bush in the garden to this stunning practical piece of art. I asked her if that basket was for sale towards the end of the day. I really wanted that basket. Wanted it like no one has ever wanted a basket before. A tiskit a tasket I like and love this basket! I wanted it to have the object, but also as a way to tell Sally how wonderful I thought it was and how much I enjoyed watching her process. It’s always a gift watching someone who has real mastery over their craft. I remember Amaorie’s parents making blood sausage from live pig to the dinner table in Cuba, Sally with her Basket, Akira with his pots, Dad singing “Being Alive”, watching Raf illustrate an idea, Nate playing the piano, Dave moving through his pedals, Raky deep in the bang bangs. These are gifts to me, witnessing them at work, great unlikely charms of experience that I carry with me. Sally told me the basket was for me! She was making it for me! She weaved in the story of the mountains I climbed, diamonds from a tale I told in my show. It was a very special gift as was the opportunity to sit and talk to her. The pace of this tour seldom allows time to languidly have a yarn. Sometimes I feel I don’t have the time or the energy to make friends, other times it happens within the space of a single breath. You see who the other person is, they see you and you don’t need time. You just needed a moment of contact. This has happened many times on this journey. It makes up for all the connections I feel I’m missing when I’m too spent or emailing or biking or hiding.
4. Fiona and Alistair in Upper Moutere picked up two puppies the day I arrived! I held them in my arms and let them lick my face and my mouth even though they had just been wholeheartedly licking their own assholes. If I was president of the Galaxy I would give every human being two forever puppies (puppies that never grow up). There is no joy on earth greater then that which comes from true puppy love.
5. Played a show outside Picton on the Marloborough Sounds. The house overlooked the water and the islands. Where I come from only millionaires live in locations like this, but my hosts Annabelle and Midge were a school teacher and a working musician. Such is the quality of life in New Zealand. In the background splashing dolphins were illuminated by a soft pastel sunset as I shared my sing songs. A most sincere woman, whose name I cannot remember, but whose face is crystal clear, approached me afterwards holding a twenty dollar bill with both hands like it was a canister of weapons grade uranium or a premature newborn. She seemed very serious. She looked at me and said “I want you to know I worked my fingers to the bone for this…….. TO THE BONE. And I’m giving it to you…. Thank you.” Wow! Don’t get much better then that.