Sunday, July 17, 2005

A Double Good Bye

Eleven years ago, two medical dramas hit our screens. They both came with excellent credentials and reasons to watch them. ER had Michael Crichton, of Jurassic Park fame, as its creator and promised fairly energetic story lines and interesting cinematography (if its appropriate to use that word for TV programmes). Up against it was Chicago Hope, another David E Kelley vehicle, which promised to be somewhat more quirky and edgy. I remember being torn between the two shows, as they both sounded exciting on paper but I couldn't really commit to both.

As it happened, I never warmed to Chicago Hope, although it had its moments. Evidently my lack of sentiment was shared by the market, as despite a desperate attempt to woo back watchers with a return of one of its more quirky characters, it went off screen five years ago. But my lack of affection for Chicago Hope does not mean that ER won by default: for years I carried a torch for Carol Hathaway, then the lovely Lucy came along and was cruelly murdered and most recently I have formed a high regard for Abbey. From the male side of things, there was Doug Ross, Peter Benton and Mark Green - all outstanding guys. Mark's final words, to his daughter, ("Be generous Rachel,' he says, 'with yourself, with your life, with your love. Just be generous.") are as good a rubric by which to live one's life as any. I've enjoyed Luka at times, particularly when he took a stand against all the unnecessary tests done to keep the insurance companies and lawyers happy, with the resulting rocketing of medical costs, but over the past season, he's really only been there as one of the crowd.

But the show over the past couple of years has become less and less vital. I've grown tired of getting interested in one or other of the characters, only to have them leave. The new people coming in, like Pratt, Chen and Neela, just don't seem to have it. Carter's departure was really the last straw - with him gone, there is no-one to carry the show. I didn't even bother to watch the finale - the shorts were enough to give the game away. I know its coming back for a twelfth season, and there is speculation that Danny Glover will play a bigger part in it, but its over between us. (Interestingly, Television Without Pity is giving up as well.) Let's see what Grey's Anatomy can do - I was pleased to see that she sets a high standard as a doctor.

My other goodbye is closer to home. About five years ago, I was sitting about drinking coffee when a mate said that he had to sell his car immediately, as he'd fallen for some sort of Subaru and needed the money. Without even seeing it, I offered $500 - I'd done over a year of having no car as my little gesture to the environment, but needed one for regular visits to Woodville. And so I became the proud owner of an unwarranted Toyota Cressida (luckily, the only reason it had no warrant was a bit of dust in the brakes). It had the coolest stereo - one of those old Pye quad things with a little joystick to sort out the channels - although it would only play radio by the time I got it. For three years it ferried me all over the north island and did a trip around the south island, never needing anything spent on it. Then, last year, I got the bad news: several hundred dollars to fix the rust. Me being me, I did nothing about it, just sat it on the side of the road outside my house and let Webster come into my life. Finally, after a bit of threatening mail, the Council took my old car away this week, presumably to be crushed down to the size of a bale of hay. Thanks for being there, LA 534.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Rarotonga Sojourn

I had wondered how Rarotonga would be for me, even before I left home. After all, its predominant motif is the beach, and most people go there for beach-related activities, like snorkelling, swimming, lazing about in the sun. And I don't really do any of those things: my major concern with swimming being the likelihood that the requisite disrobing would effect an immediate depopulation of the island, a fresh migration. Its not like the country has a whole lot of people to spare: its total populace could fit into a town like Kaikohe. That was my other concern - the fact that the place was just too small to hold much attraction for me.

And so it came to pass that about two days into my week there, I'd pretty much done all there was to be done. I'd taken the public bus around the island, twice. I'd visited the National Museum, a big building, sure, but the actual exhibition occupied a space not much larger than my office. Its total contents comprised a few digital photos of the islands, a tiny vaka, a few carved wooden heads and maybe some handcrafts. The National Library, right next door, seemed to be made up of a collection of pamphlets: going in was pointless. The bookshop was not quite as bounteous as its name suggested: a couple of tables of the sort you'd see carrying the remainders in a normal bookshop, one of which was laden with Harry Potters of various stages in his development.

I'd walked up and down the streets of Avarua, trying all of the coffee shops and, reluctantly, conceded that my very peremptory hostel manager was right in pointing out that The Cafe was the best. It in fact formed the basis of my daily routine: in which I'd take a quick trip in to town, have a lemon & sour cream cake (oooh - the day I was there just after it had left the oven: priceless) with my coffee, check emails, walk the streets and then go home.

But then, I'd never really figured on doing very much on the island anyway: I'd taken a swag of music, I had my books; I was there to relax. Once I stopped looking for things to do, I did. I got myself one of those fancy Cook Island drivers licences (heh: I was asked to pay $10, even though there was a big sign saying I'd need to pass a practical test. When I asked why I didn't need to, the cop just said "You do, but we dont have anyone to test you. Meh."). Now I've got my research assistant looking into whether I can ride on it in New Zealand,or use it to get a NZ licence. Not that that's necessarily a great idea: within a mere three hours of getting the motorbike, I'd fallen off and am still paying the price in terms of stiff joints.

The falling off was caused by the rain, the rain that was at first quite innocuous, a midday half hour shower, but which by the end of the week had become continuous. I swear that it rained for 72 hours with no more than a 5 minute break for smoko. I know that I'd hear a pause, but before I could get my shoes on, the rain would have started all over again, with renewed force. Luckily, I was around on Muri Beach by this time, so there was beer in the shop next door and several quite flash restaurants the other way.

One bears particular mention: the Pacific Resort. Doesn't the sound of tuna marinated in pineapple and lime juice, gently panfried and drizzled with jus sound good? Particularly when its on a bed of kumera mash and steamed veges to the side? Unfortunately, the kumera mash turned out to be four pieces of half roasted kumera. The steamed veges were a sodden mass of slime. So once I'd finished my Mai Tai (that, I have to give them, was fabulous), rather than going to the bar to pay my dues, I wandered off up the beach, figuring, hey its my last night on the island, I'm about to catch the bus to the airport and its not like I have any plans to come back.

Unfortunately, Muri Beach is a small place. The bus to the airport was a bit late and while I was waiting, I was spotted. I suppose I could have moaned at that point about how bad the food was but, well, I'd lost a little credibility.