I remember the sense of wonder that I used to feel as I crested the divide that marked the entry into the wonderland that I knew as Auckland. Auckland was a place of magic, I remember a song from Calamity Jane, “they’ve got shacks up to seven stories” springs to mind. The magic started for me with the big wide roads that then led onto the motorway. This winding piece of black that wound its way closer and closer to what for me was just the most amazing place, downtown! One place in particular.
We moved from the booming metropolis of Gisborne, somewhere around 1970, in Gisborne we did have one lift, ( I was terrified of lifts but that’s another story)and a magical vacuum tube system (A Lamson tube system to be precise)in a department store, The Melbourne Cash Department Store. The store was devastated by fire, I can still remember to this day the smell of the wool that had been burnt http://tinyurl.com/pe9v5eo. Downtown Gisborne seemed so huge, I had visited another big city, Christchurch but apart from memories of Tinytown I think in Christchurch or Lyttleton and a Magic shop in an arcade in Christchurch perhaps a function of my age.
Hamilton had DIC department store and a sprawling Farmers but two stories was as big as it got, Auckland however, well Auckland had neon lights, a cowboy, no less, twirling his magic rope,and drawing on a cigarette, that was exciting enough to an 8 or nine year old from small town New Zealand but wait there’s more. Auckland had a Farmers store, it was this amazing cornucopia of everything that you could imagine a household needed, it had escalators, escalators, my lord, I could not believe it, freedom to travel up at speed without the terrifying, Tardis like lift. This sprawling mini metropolis was an explosion of sights and sounds. Its crowning glory was however the tea rooms, “Harbour View Tearooms” with attendant magical playground and Hector the Sulphur crested Cockatoo. Farmers and Auckland were synonymous to me, no visit was complete without a ride on the Farmers Free Bus and a trip to the top of the world.
The magic lasted till my early teens and then I started to notice some of the things in Auckland that were not so magical. The first of these were the Iron Giants, the power pylons that I saw. These pylons followed the Motorway but in places they were in peoples back yard, I asked my dad about it and he said that’s Otara, it wasn’t till later till my political awakenings that I understood what exactly that meant. I remember thinking to myself I never wanted to live near one of those monstrosities, I knew nothing of EMF, links to Leukaemia, interference with TV and Radio signals, I just thought they were ugly, sinister, things. Grey sentinels, guarding just what I didn’t know, they were dark, scary portents of doom to me. The other overwhelming negative experience was experiencing the brown fields of Mangere, a brand new suburb of houses and overwhelming nothingness, I was 15 at the time and had read about suburban neurosis and after a week in Mangere thought I understood just a little of the despair that the women of Mangere may have felt trapped in their homes without cars or public transport and vast tracts of red brown sticky clay.
These memories came back to me as I travelled through East Tamaki today, driving past the artefacts of civilisation, huge chimneys, huge pylons and greyness, as I reflected (hmm does curse equal reflection) on the traffic and my conflicted relationship with Auckland. My relationship with Auckland reflects my life at the moment, I have an ongoing every workday relationship with Auckland at the moment, I love the vibrancy, cultural diversity and opportunity that Auckland has to offer, I don’t like, actually I despise the vast disparities that I see in Auckland, the broken people and the so called elite. They are all there. Auckland is where the jobs are but not where I live… to be continued