And Now, On a Lighter Note…

During our stay at Auckland’s Prince’s Wharf Hilton (see mention last blog), Noel and I had a great time.  And now, on a lighter note than my last blog…

We stayed on the top floor of the hotel.  If you know the Hilton, it’s basically a long corridor with rooms spanning off each side.  At the harbour-end of the pier, there’s a large suite, but, to my knowledge, the remainder of the rooms are rooms, with some of them aiming out towards the water (with balconies) and a lovely view of a container wharf (soon to be a cruise ship passenger terminal… or so they keep saying) and the rooms opposite face into the narrow parking lot/lane running between the mirror-image of the Hilton on the other side of the wharf.

In the middle of the inner-side of the Hilton is where the elevators are.  Three elevators open onto a small lobby-like area on each floor, complete with chairs to wait for people, et cetera.  (Not anyone can go in the lift; you need a key to get in.)

We always get an outer-facing room, and I think we ran out of wine, so Noel and I decided to make a trek to the local Star Mart (kinda like a 7-11 for those non-New Zealanders reading this blog) which was at the city-end of the wharf.

The lift arrived, and we jumped into it.  Unfortunately, the elevator stopped on the next floor down, and two huge (as in muscular) guys got into the lift.  One of them was about 6′ 3″ (1.87m) and the other was about my height (5′ 10″ or 1.79m).  The tall one was still talking, going on about how he thought they were all “wank-a’s” and he was going to write that in his column.  Could he, he asked the shorter one, write that kind of stuff in his article?

After my mind wandered to, “Can this neadrathal write?”, then to, “Can I write it in my article, George? Please, George?”, I snapped back into the present and eavesdropped (as you have no choice to do when you are crammed in a lift with strangers).

The shorter guy just agreed because the taller one was having a good ol’ rant about something.  But then it struck me: they both had English accents.  They both looked like rugby (or American football) players.  And I really started thinking the guy doing all the talking was a bit of a “wank-a” himself.

We arrived at the ground floor and all spilled out into the lobby.  Other similar looking guys (you know, could knock-you-back-to-your-birth-with-one-punch kinda guys) were in the lobby and there was a symphony of various English accents.

Noel and I left the hotel to get our supplies, and en route I said, “Gee, I wonder if those guys are on some sort of team.”  (I did want to ask them, “Are you guys all on the same team or what?” but I didn’t fancy my chances of walking out of that one in one piece.)

Now, to totally justify myself, I have *no* idea who is playing what sport where.  I’m not sports-minded.  I never have been, and I probably never will be.  Images of my parents screaming at the TV during a Chicago Bears game (and me saying, “Uh, hello, they can’t HEAR you.  But the neighbours can!!!”) have totally put me off sport.

We didn’t think any more of it until we left our room once again to go get some dinner.  This time there was a really built guy sitting in one of the chairs.  Noel said jokingly to him, “You know, you don’t *have* to sit out here.  They give you rooms here,” and he laughed.  The lift arrived — the guy already hit the lift button — and we all piled in there.

Again, this guy was big.  Probably 6′ 2″ and very well built.  After he disembarked on the 1st floor (again, for some of you blog readers, in New Zealand, the 1st floor is above the ground floor), Noel turned to me and said, “Phaw. He must work out!”

We went to dinner, me still pondering who these guys were, and, once we got back to the hotel, I finally broke down and texted James and Jacqui to find out if, in fact, the English Rugby Team was in town for a match with the All Blacks.

No reply.

So I called them instead.  Jacqui sat laughing at me for about 5 minutes because I’d said “Football” instead of “rugby” (so bloody sue me) but said, yes, the English Rugby Team were staying in town because they were playing the All Blacks on Saturday.  I said to them, “Oh, I think they’re staying at our hotel because there’s all these huge guys with English accents staying here.”

This showed my naivety even further.  Jacqui was like, “Hello, that’s the WORST kept secret in the country!”

Hmph.  Again, I didn’t get the memo!

I think I would have caught on even if I hadn’t called Jacqui because the next morning, at breakfast in the White restaurant (on the 1st floor with a beautiful view of the harbour), the team were there, in a type of uniform, all saying “England” on them.

The Pulitzer-prize-winner wanna-be was there, scooping a large serving of eggs onto his plate, *still* spouting off about how so-and-so were a bunch of “wank-a’s” so I think the man must never shut up and have a great opinion of himself.

Anyway… it was interesting to see the difference.  Noel and I ran into the Canterbury team once in Whangarei, and they were really nice, down-to-earth guys.  Jillian and I ran into the All Blacks while taking the students for a tour of Champs-Elysees Day Spa at the Heritage in Christchurch, and they were also realy nice, down-to-earth guys.  But the English rugby team… wow, most of the ones we saw were really full of themselves and had little to no manners whatsoever.

They even had the cheek to act towards us and other guests as if we were a pain for being there, like we were going to all the sudden say, “Oooh!  Oooh!  Aren’t you so-and-so!  Oooh!  Can I get your autograph!  Please!”  As if I’d behave like that anyway!

Just as well Kiwis showed them good hospitality (if you’ve been following the media reports about some of the girls they met in an Auckland bar, I’d say some Kiwis showed them a better time than others!) and then handed their asses to them on a plate during their matches against the All Blacks.  Twice!

What?!?

It’s been a while since I have blogged, and I apologise for this.  For those of you who know me closely, loss is something I handle very poorly and I needed time to recover from the deaths of our cat Celeste and dog Nyota.

As some of you may know, Noel and I went up to Auckland recently to see Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, the Musical.  For the second time!  It was a great break from everything, especially since Nyota had passed away very suddenly only a few days before.  Nothing like a break from normal life and routine to recouperate from everything.

Anyway, we stayed at the Prince’s Wharf Hilton, one of our most favourite places to stay.  I have several stories related to the Hilton and this trip, but I’d like to talk about one specific one here.

The first day we were there, we noticed a small ship moored on the opposite side of the wharf.  It was old… There were so many layers of paint on it that you could see some places where the hull had been repaired or maybe even loss the outer layer.  The paint was thick on the hull plating.

There were two gangplanks from the ship to the wharf, and we saw people getting on and off the ship.  We didn’t think much of it, assuming it was an old cruise ship sailing the waters of the South Pacific.

One night, heading back from dinner, we realised it was open for the public to view.  As those of you who know us know, we love the ocean and love cruise ships.  So, with an opportunity to view the ship, we went aboard and had a bit of a look around.

We discovered the ship, the Doulous, toured the world, taking books and educational materials to those in countries who might not be able to afford it.  There were several other good things the crew did as well (I am sure), but, off the top of my head, I can’t remember them.  I do remember the crew were multinational and worked on the ship without pay.  Basically, everything done on the ship was done out of some sense of humanitarianism.

Near the end of the journey on the ship, we found a make-shift bookshop.  The walls and ceiling were comprised of tarps jurry-rigged over the deck from the port to starboard sides.  The shop wasn’t small, and seemed to have a great selection of books at first glance.

The system of buying books was interesting.  Instead of putting a dollar value on books, they were rated in credits or points, so a book might cost 100 credits and, in New Zealand, that equated to $4 (or something similar).  The books were relatively inexpensive, anyway, especially in light of being at Whitcoulls (the local bookchain) during the day and seeing some paperbacks at the hefty price of $50NZ.

We browsed around and found a lot of books.  Somewhere along the line, we discovered the ship was a Christian ship.  I don’t have a problem with that or any charitable organisation being of one religious belief or another as long as they don’t push it down non-believers’ throats.

On a brief but relevant diversion from the topic, I believe you express your belief and your faith through your actions.  As a Christian, albeit maybe a very liberal one, I believe my actions should show my faith, not how many times I attend church or how many “heathens” I attempt to convert.  Some of my friends are atheists.  Some are agnostic.  Some are Buddhists.  But I don’t believe in pushing over my beliefs on others.

So, with browsing the books on the ship, they seemed to have everything.  But near the check-out area, we stumbled upon the Christian section.

I don’t have a problem with Christian books.  As a matter of fact, I’d bought a Christian-themed book earlier in the day at Whitcoulls from an Australian lawyer who wrote a book arguing why God exists.  I think, though, quite a few Christian books approach the subject, as the author in the book I’ve bought has said, from a level of the reader being overly familiar with the Bible.

But one of the books ruined the experience for me.  I did try to joke to Noel about it (and I’m sure he found it funny), but I took offense to it on a ship I believed would be more advanced than to have a book like this on it.

The book was entitled The Gay Agenda.  Now, I’m gay.  Noel’s gay.  Some of my friends are gay.  And I’m not sure whether the New Zealand or US branches haven’t gotten the memo or anything, but I don’t know about any “gay agenda”.  I mean, I know about gays and lesbians wanting to be treated equally as their straight counterparts, and, kicking religion out of the equation, I strongly believe if I pay the same (or in the case of most states in the US, more) taxes as straight people, I should have the same rights.  That’s only fair.

But “The Gay Agenda”?  It makes it sound like we’re trying to take over the world or something.

I joked with Noel.  “Did you get the memo?  I didn’t get the memo.  When did we get an agenda?”  He laughed.  But the book’s subject matter made me uneasy.

As a gay man, I guess we have a long row to hoe to be treated fairly and equally with others.  (To be honest, women and other minority groups have also had a long row to hoe, and I sympathise with their movements as well.)  And it was a very sobering moment for me.  It did put a dampener on my few days away.

My Grandpa was a man who took people for who they were: individuals.  He’d sit down and talk with anyone, and he gave people, no matter what, a chance.  You see, he’d been judged his whole life.  He had scoliosis, a curvature of the spine.

But he taught me so much about dealing with others.  I never saw the curve in his spine, never saw the deformaties other people did.  He was Grandpa, my Grandpa, and I saw him for his soul, his personality, not what he looked like.  As a matter of fact, his scoliosis never really ever dawned on me most of the time.

When I came out, he never judged me.  He loved me unconditionally, which meant a lot for me.  Maybe it was because I loved him unconditionally; I’ll probably never know while I walk on this mortal world.

The point of this whole blog is we can get along as humans.  I honour the author’s right to exercise his point-of-view, but, honestly, who cares?  Is he gay?  How do gay and lesbian people impact him negatively?  Why do others feel they have the right to impinge on the rights of others?

I just don’t understand people like that.  It leaves me thinking… What?!?

Noel and I bought the books anyway, and we made a major purchase (as we felt it was going to a good cause overall) compared to the others who were on the ship at the same time we were.

The crew were friendly enough.  But I wasn’t sure what to do.  Buy the book and burn it?  But wouldn’t buying the book mean I was supporting the author and the bookstore’s perception the book was popular?

Should I complain?  I’m sure these people were only stocking all opportunities.  I’m sure some people might have found the Alice in Wonderland book offensive for some reason or another.  But that’s classical literature.  Was The Gay Agenda?

Would complaining about me finding the book offensive make me just as bad (in my opinion) as the author?  Or had others complained about the book throughout the day?  It’s a fine line to tread, I guess, between freedom of speech and freedom of the individual.

My Opa (my other grandfather) believed to the day he died the Holocaust was made up by the victors in WW2.  Even though he fought for the Nazis, he was a victim too, his mother, too Russian and not mentally stable enough to fit into the Nazis’ New World Order, dragged off and never seen again, his father forced to remarry an echt deutsche Frau (true German woman), and he ran so far tha the ran into the arms of the very people who hurt him deepest.

But he believed, fervently, it was all a lie.

You see, he read these things in books. Books he’d find somewhere in Borders or Barnes and Noble or wherever.  Books my family would sometimes reluctantly buy him for Christmas or his birthday when that’s what he wanted.  (Me?  I never would have the confidence when I was younger to buy him a book like that.  I didn’t want to fuel the fire.)

What I mean is, the people we see or believe are evil or villians don’t just suddenly end up that way.  Somehow, something, some event or chain of events twist them and turn them into the people we see as those we can’t agree with.

The whole point, the other side of the coin, is he was my grandfather.  He should have the right to choose the books he read, have the opinion he had, believe what he wanted as long as he didn’t hurt others with it.  And, even though I didn’t agree with his opinion or his views, I would defend his views to the end.

So was I overreacting about The Gay Agenda?

Maybe it’s just been a long year, but, to be honest, I’m sick of being judged for what I am, or where I work, or because I’m larger than what’s considered normal, or because I have an accent compared to others in New Zealand.  I don’t judge others on that.  I try to be open-minded and loving, like my Grandpa taught me as a child through his actions.

Maybe it’s just the year getting me down; I don’t know.

Maybe I’m just getting more confused by some peoples’ motivations as I get older.  it leaves me thinking… What?!?