Kelly and I travelled to New Plymouth in Taranaki about a week ago. They call Taranaki “The ‘Naki” and
they are quite proud of this. This is a place where you can still get a decent, rural, mince pie. You don’t have to
be carrying pair of chopsticks in your back pocket and there are few airs and graces. That’s the way I like it.
The object of the trip was to visit the bloke who was restoring my 1957 VW bus in Inglewood which is
very close to New Plymouth. Steve Crow, the New Zealand porn king, was raised in Inglewood. There’s a
man who has done a lot for the world.
I hadn’t been to New Plymouth for at least thirty years.
Back in the early ’80’s I’d sometimes send bands through the pubs in New Plymouth. There were a lot of working men and
country people and so any band visiting the area was always going to get a good crowd. You’d usually do
a one-nighter at the Bell Block on your way through to Auckland. These were in the days of the massive
‘booze barns’ and in these sorts of towns there were always a lot of fights; men who were working on oil or gas
rigs all week, or working in the freezing works, or on farms, would often come to these gigs for a fight.
They’d get all the dirty water off their chests and then they’d go back to their sheep.
Too much excitement is not good for them.
The best band I ever saw in a booze barn situation was Th’ Dudes. No question about that. They had this enormous
capacity to wind the crowd up to the extent that sweat was dropping off the traffic light poles up and down the car-park outside.
The guy restoring my bus was a genuine down to earth Kiwi bloke. He was about forty, bearded, wearing shorts, a
VW Nationals tee shirt and working man’s boots. I like this salt of the earth type.
He had around him various garages and barns with about twenty old Volkswagens in various stages of restoration
and a couple of old Porsches.
I think he spends a good part of his day doing what seems to me to be an enormously satisfying pastime – he welds
up old steel. He cuts the bad stuff out and he welds the good stuff in.
I put a photo of my bus up on Hookbook and called it a bus. There was a flurry of activity all around the world as various
people chimed in to tell me that my bus was, in fact, a panel van.
I knew that.
We are all tremendously susceptible to these things. To other people wanting to educate us or lecture
us or to say things that are in no way helpful and way out of sync. Oftentimes they hover over the top of their computers looking
for something to lash out at. They are fuelled up on self-centredness and possibly hard liquor and amphetamine as well.
They create a tide which no person on earth can stand up against. Hookbook is a tide and oftentimes of ill will. You cannot
rollerskate in a buffalo herd.
Me? I try to cut out the bad parts and I weld in the good parts.
It has been said that I, like a lot of others, am afraid of criticism. That’s not quite what it is. I own a successful
business in New Zealand and so I get criticised quite frequently. Those people who play around with sheep all
week love to have something to hate. It’s not that I am afraid of criticism (in fact I find it a great motivating force) it’s about
what I’ll do when I’m criticised and I grew tired of jail about twenty years ago.
When I was a kid I had to struggle to get through some pretty major illnesses. It was at this time that I learned all
about survival. I was sent to health camps and I spent months in hospitals and was told at one point, by my mother,
that “they” (the doctors) were going to try to keep me alive until I was ten and then they’d take a lung out. My
mother, an extremely passionate person, was also prone to getting a bit hysterical at times. My father, the depressive
with his William Faulkner books, was the anchor of her feelings and whims.
At this time, I had a doctor (Dr Marion White) who’d visit me almost daily for weeks at a time. She’d give me a shot of something to help
me breathe. It wasn’t her fault, but her personality wasn’t pleasant and these days she’d be a dragon on the internet and Hookbook.
She’d be looking for people to make a mistake or to advise them on how Frank Zappa was really a long way better than the
Velvet Underground. We all know these cretins. They surf among us.
After Dr Marion White I had a doctor who was Scottish. His name was Doctor Jack. He’d come up Russell Street in Dunedin to see me in his beautiful old Wolseley. I’d wait for him to come. His middle name might have been “Humanity” and we all need it.
Dr Jack would scarcely give me any medication (that’s always the best way). He’d just play
Ludo with me and, of course, I got better. I began to breathe freely again.
I like being around people who help me breathe. I don’t like being around people who would cut me to the quick. I fear what I
may do to them. But, I ignore them and they move on to someone else.
There was always the sense that Dr Jack, with his caring and genuine style, was cutting out the bad bits and replacing them with good bits.
It was always the good bits of me that he concentrated on. He’d laugh and laugh as we played Ludo. I was deeply fortunate.
I probably owe Doctor Jack my life.