So yes, there I was
, on my own, in a strange city, surrounded by the crème de la crème of New Zealand's music scene. Everyone who wasn't partaking in a rejuvenating smoke on the venue's steps was jumping into one of the many mini-vans and shuttles that had flocked to the front of the Bruce Mason Theatre to transport the throng back to town, where the official after-party for which I didn't have a ticket (did I need a ticket?) was taking place. That place was the Studio. I figured I may as well give it a go. I spotted a half-full shuttle and put my head in the door.
"Are you going to the after party?"
"Yeah! Sure, climb on in!" was the reply. Phew, that was easy.
I climbed in, only now realising I'd attached myself to a mob of card-carrying bogans. The mullet on the guy I had sat down next to - henceforth known as 'Daz' - stretched halfway down his back but was shaved on the sides, and with a short fringe. A classic. The rest where much the same: tight black jeans, black muscle tees, badly drawn tattoos.
"Are you guys in a band?" I asked.
"Nahhhh!" laughed Daz. "We won the tickets on the radio. Come along for a laugh! Never seen a bigger bunch of dicks collected together in one place!"
"Ahh, didn't mean you of course, love. Just all those poncy dudes."
This bought forth a torrent of comparisons from the bogan boys as to just who was the ponciest guy they had spotted there that night. By this point the shuttle had picked up another couple of stragglers, and we were on our way. I noticed, after a couple of minutes and a few swigs of the rocket fuel that the bogans were passing around, that we seemed to be heading North, away from, not towards to the Harbour Bridge, which was, as far as I was aware, the quickest way to the City.
"Ahh, where's this after-party happening?" I asked Daz.
"A mate of mine's putting on some beers at his place!" he cried. "Free piss!"
"Oh, I was actually wanting to get into town."
"Ahh, hell, sorry love. You're probably a bit stuck now. Best bet's probably to grab a lift back with this guy..." he nodded to the cab-driver "...when he heads back, and go from there. Mate!" he yelled at the driver, "are you headed back to Takapuna after this!"
The cabby nodded. Well, that wasn't so bad then. I was probably only down a couple of dollars for the shared fare out, and maybe a ten or twenty on the way back, maybe less if I could get some people from the 'after-party' to head back with me. And these guys were quite entertaining, if a little lacking in the hygiene department.
"Just about there," Daz informed me, as we turned into another dark North Shore street. What is it with the streets up here? Half of them don't seem to have any street lighting. And then there seemed to be waaaay too much lighting. Too much indeed...
"Whooahhahhahahhh!!!" cried the occupants of the shuttle. I fell sideways off my seat as the shuttle swerved to avoid one of the two cars hooning down the road directly towards us, and clonked my head, on the same place I had at the library, on the sliding door. I'd swear we were up on two wheels for a second or two, but then we righted, the shuttle slid to a stop, and a calm descended. A few giggles and exhalations of breath broke the silence.
"Farrrk," said Daz. "That was a bit close. You all right?"
I felt my head. No bleeding. Just a clonk. "Yes."
"I'll fucking kill those boys when I see them," muttered Daz.
"You know those drivers!!" the cabby yelled back at us.
"No!" said Daz. "I meant, if
we seem them again."
"You know them! You tell me who they are! The police are on their way!"
"Scarper!" yelled Daz.
The shuttle emptied in a flash. The bogans ran every which way. The cabby, noticing that I wasn't going anywhere, ordered me to stay put. Where the hell was I going to go? Five minutes later a police car arrived, two cops clambered out, and started giving me and the cabby the third degree on what had happened. Well, actually, it was more like the seventh or eighth degree, and they quickly bought my story of hijacked out-of-town girl, and simultaneously managed to calm the cabby down from a raging fury a more manageable grumpy. We gave our fairly short statements to the police, after which the cabby demanded I pay the fare. To placate him, and to keep onside with the police, I gave him 10 of my last remaining 40 dollars. He humphed at me, climbed into his shuttle and drove off, leaving me with the police.
"Want a lift anywhere?" the younger of the two (they were both probably younger than me) asked.
"Can you get me to the City?"
"Auckland? Nope. We can get you back to Takapuna if you want. You can catch a cab from there."
"That'd be great, thanks."
They dropped me by a taxi rank on Takapuna's main street. I climbed into one, on my own.
"Um, the Studio thanks. In Auckland."
"The what? Where?" asked 'Sabdar', the Asian-of-unknown-origin driver.
"The. Studio. Auckland. It's a bar, I think. A nightclub. Auckland's the big city across the bridge"
All right, I didn't say the Auckland bit, but I thought it.
Still, Sabdar turned and looked at me quizzically, then turned back, picked up his walky-talky thing and spieled off a long non-English rant into it. An equally indecipherable reply came back.
"OK," said Sabdar, "we go."
At least this time we were headed in the right direction. The Harbour Bridge hoved into view, and up and over we went. I watched with trepidation as the meter ticked up over $20, and then, as we headed into town and hit yet another set of lights, $30. It seemed to be taking an awfully long time to make the same journey that had taken 20 minutes on the bus coming the other way. Finally, as the Sky Tower came into close view for about the fifth time in 5 minutes, and the meter ticked up to the $40 mark, it was becoming apparent I wasn't going to be able to pay the fare. We pulled up to our umpteenth set of lights. Steeled by the rocket fuel the bogans had shared with my earlier, as well as the jagemeister and a couple of beers at the awards ceremony, I slipped my heels off, opened the back door, put $20 on the seat, and as Daz would have so eloquently put it, scarpered.
I was probably safe after running 50m down a fairly busy footpath and around two corners, but the adrenalin was still flowing through me and I sprinted on. I kept looking over my shoulder too see if Sabdar was after me, and, it was while doing this that I failed to see one of those annoying waist high street signs someone had planted outside a kebab shop. I went straight into it and clattered to the ground. I didn't bump my head this time, but did graze my shoulder and hip, and I could feel a couple of decent bruises welling up on both my knees where I'd smacked them on the sign.
"Hey! Watch out for my sign!" yelled the guy behind the kebab counter.
"Sorry," I moaned, pulling myself up.
"You OK?" he said, having ascertained that his sign showing no obvious signs of damage.
"Errr, yes, I think so."
"Someone chasing you? You need help?" he enquired.
"Err, no. Just late for something. Actually, do you know where the Studio is?"
"It's a nightclub. Venue. Thing."
I showed him the Studio logo that was on the back of the awards ticket. He shook his head.
"Kebab?" he enquired.
Actually, I was pretty hungry. I hadn't eaten anything substantial since lunch, with only a few nibbles at the awards ceremony keeping me going in the interim. I ordered a falafel, and parted with another $7.50. I was down to my last $2.50. Things were getting a bit tight, and I still had to get back to the crash-pad (Noizy's in-laws' place out at Mount Eden) later that night. I tried my luck with directions with another couple of kebab-shop customers with no success. I figured I'd head towards the Sky Tower, get my bearings, and forge on from there.
I looked up, and realised that I was only half a block from the said tower, so I headed off that way, munching my falafel. When I got there, I felt a weird impulse to go in and check out the casino.
I never gamble - it was more of a touristy move, having never set foot inside the place before. But, it was one of those moments, and I couldn't resist just one punt on one of the pokies. Naturally, I won $40 with my first coin. Yes, I should have quite while I was ahead. I had, after all, just won back all the money I'd lost and spent over the course of the night in one hit. But no, at this point my sordid story reaches it's nadir. I spent the next hour playing that stupid pokie, and it robbed me of nearly all my remaining swag. I was back down to my last $10 when I started to feel sick. It was pretty warm in there, and, all of a sudden, I felt that horrible clutch you get in your guts when your stomach says to your brain...
"No two ways about it Natalie. You're going to spew."
I stood and started looking around for a toilet, but the mere process of standing up got the gastric juices flowing, and before I knew it, I was, in some sort of karmic retribution, vomiting all over the pokie machine that had just eaten all my money. In a flash there were two female security-usher-types on either side of me, one of them hurriedly scooping up the won tons, sun-dried tomatoes, falafel and semi-digested cheese, while the other, having figured out I was not an out of control drunkard, guided me to the sick bay.
"Eat something that didn't agree with you, dear?" 'Sally' enquired as she sat me down on the sick bay bed.
"Ugh." I agreed.
"Here, have a few sips on this. It's got some electrolytes in it - should make you feel better."
"Ugh. Thanks. Sorry about ... sorry about that."
"God, we see much worse than that. Don't give it a second thought."
A couple of other people came to check me out, and I was given the all-clear to either return to the gambling floor or head home.
"I think I'll go home," I said. It was about 2am by now, and I had an 8am flight back to Wellington.
"Shall I get you a taxi?" offered Sally. Twice bitten, thrice shy?
Five minutes later, Sally escorted me out to a waiting taxi, gave the driver instructions on where he was to take me, and within 10 minutes I was back at Noizy's in-laws, curled up under a sleeping bag on the couch. Don't even ask about the flight home the next morning. Ugh.
Late night schmoozing with celebs? I think I'll stick to the librarianship.
previously: part 1